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Announcing the People’s Choice Locavore Essay Winner

1 Oct

Congratulations to Melissa Brody for her essay titled Connecting the Pieces, chosen by our blog readers as their favorite essay. Both Melissa and reader Mary Carey from Brocton, NY will receive a year’s subscription to Taproot Magazine. Below is Melissa’s essay. Thanks to everyone who weighed in on their favorite piece, and to all our fantastic authors.  Remember, they’re archived on our 2013 Essay Contest Page for you to enjoy any time you need some inspiration in the dark winter months.

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Connecting the Pieces by Melissa Brody

My mom opened the fridge, searching for options. I had barely arrived and she already wanted to fill me with food. She turned and proudly announced she had bought brown eggs. She didn’t want to feel judged. “Where did they come from,” I asked. She stared at me in disbelief, then huffed, “Where did this obsession with local come from? You were never like this before.” She was right.

Growing up, I didn’t think twice about where my food came from; food was just there. While I was in college, a trip to McDonalds occurred at least once a week, and although we cooked, we opted for the exotics—mangoes, avocados, pineapples. They made us feel fancy. Yet somewhere along the way things changed, rapidly. My curiosity awoke and suddenly I wanted, no, needed, to know exactly what I was consuming and where it came from.

I traded exotic delicacies for local produce. My senses became alive to the touch, smell, sight, and taste of local food. The first time I tasted an heirloom tomato, I wondered why I spent so many years forcing flavorless supermarket tomatoes down my throat. I became aware of the thick layers of wax that coated far-traveled cucumbers. For the first time I saw baby carrots for what they really were, and considered the labor and waste that went into making those perfectly petit creations.

I became jaded at first, angry about what people bought. Why sell California strawberries in June when they’re growing practically at our feet? Asparagus in December no longer seemed natural. But through my adventure into local, I found so much more than food. Eating local brought me community. We joined a co-op. I no longer dreaded food shopping because I now had a say not just in what I was eating, but what the store carried. We joined a CSA and found neighbors we never knew we had. We visited farms and farmers markets, learning not just where but how our food grew.

Food now had a face. Picking up a fava bean brings me back to the farm stand where the farmer took time to explain how to peel the beans and his favorite way to prepare them. A spoonful of applesauce reminds me of the unseasonably warm September weekend we spent picking apples upstate, then bringing the fruit home to can. An omelet transports me to my first visit to Stone Barns where I collected eggs while chickens pecked at my sneakers.

My journey as a locavore has affected my life in ways I could never have imagined. I look at the world differently. I have yet to pinpoint the moment in my life when everything changed. I’m not sure who or what convinced me to question why raspberries, peas, and butternut squash are always available all year long. But I’ve learned to connect the pieces—to understand my impact on this earth, to realize the labor that goes into the meal that sits in front of me and to savor each bite that enters my mouth.

About the author: Melissa Brody is a marketing professional by day, food blogger by night. She is an advocate of the local food movement and founding member of the Bay Ridge Food Co-op. Melissa’s blog, Brooklyn Locavore features seasonal original and adapted recipes and locavore finds.

Locavore Equinox: Balancing Out and Celebrating Each Moment

22 Sep

The last stretch of the Locavore challenge comes after the equinox.  That means it’s officially fall, but the balance of daylength and nighttime have symbolic power for the locavore.  The last week on the blog will focus on celebrating the delicious food and the truly awesome organic landscapes around us.  This is a week for us to show off a bit, with the celebrate the harvest dinners you might be planning for the weekend, but also to reflect on ways to work the locavore joy into our lives for the long term.  You’ve likely tried activities that you wouldn’t keep up all year round, simply because you can’t (think of berry picking in February–it’s just not possible in New York) or because you realize that the activity is a bit of a reach for you to do daily or weekly (not everyone wants to bake bread for their family every week).  The theme of balance that comes with the equinox (night and day are the same length) reminds us to think about the ways to pull back from the mania of checking off all the different locavore activities, to slow down after summer, to savor those locavore moments that really bring us happiness.  Sure, the abundance of September also encourages certain obsessions and the drive to put up lots of tomato sauce and salsa while we still can, but in the spirit of the equinox, let’s approach the last few weeks of overflowing market tables with a calm mindset.  Let’s not forget the joy this food (and the sound farming practices that got it to market) brings us and the local food it permits us to eat into the winter.

How to celebrate AND have balance?  This part of the challenge can be the point when you:

  • Decide to become a NOFA-NY member, because you know that this helps sustain farms in New York over the long term;
  • finally pick up a book related to food, farming, agricultural history, food justice, etc. because reading about farming is a different way to engage with your locavore brain;
  • take one last you-pick farm trip
  • engage the photographer or artist within yourself to create a lasting image that will remind you about how important farms are to our culture and communities
  • invite friends over to celebrate bounty (just don’t let it stress you out);
  • decide to patronize a locavore restaurant, because going out to eat is indeed part of your lifestyle and having a locavore option captures that balance that you’ll embrace as a locavore in the next 11 months (until September 2014).

Do whatever means most to you!

Last week, we heard from some of you on Facebook and Twitter about some of the celebrations of local food and farming.

On Facebook, Lynn Clow Burko told us “[I] resolved to purchase only local meats for my family and stuck to it. It can be done!”  Well done–sounds like you challenged yourself to do something new, and realized it was something you might work into your lives year-round.  A great example of stretching your assumptions and then realizing this fit into the balance of your budget and meal planning anyways!

Sarah’s family update for the week also exemplifies the concept of the change of seasons and inserting some slowing-down and balancing-out joy in her locavore activities. “With our CSA shares coming to an end and the vegetables taking a bit longer to grow and ripen in our garden, we have begun thinking about the fall season. Basil  has been plentiful in our CSA shares and garden this summer, and our final CSA share this week came with a basic recipe for pesto, so we’re making and preserving pesto for the final Locavore activity for my kids’ Locavore journals. It’s really the perfect recipe for my kids, simple and easy. Plus, we have a manual hand pump food processor that makes the whole process take a bit longer, letting us savor the work a bit more than with an electric processor. My kids help me cook often, but I suspect that making pesto will bring together a lot of our conversations and activities from this past month, making it a bit more of a memorable cooking experience for them. I also like the idea that through food preservation my kids will learn to avoid letting food go to waste and to think ahead when it comes to food and taking care of themselves.

A few Facebook friends shared their culinary endeavors with us.  Shannon Sodano told us that her potluck included, “homemade applesauce, stuffed tomatoes, sweet potato and leek soup, pumpkin apple and sage soup, beet salad with pistachios apple and arugula and homemade ice cream and watermelon and peach pie for dessert.”

A locavore potluck in Brooklyn.  Photo credit--Shannon Sodano, Sept. 2013.

A locavore potluck in Brooklyn. Photo credit: Shannon Sodano, Sept. 2013.

MaryBeth Anderson, also via Facebook, shared this image of a panzanella salad with us.  The local produce, herbs and homemade bread were balanced out with some special ingredients like olive oil and garbanzo beans.  A great example of finding the locavore option that works within her lifestyle.

MaryBeth Anderson local panzanella

MaryBeth Anderson’s local panzanella salad.

As for yours truly, I plan to visit the longer articles I’ve bookmarked for myself to read about our food system, to gain a more internal appreciation of the work we’ve been doing at NOFA-NY.  I won’t promise to finish the agrarian landscape-setting books I have checked out from the library, but I’m excited to make some forward progress this week, as the preserving projects take less of my time (I’ve called the end of my tomato-canning season since I have run out of pantry shelf space) and the new chilly fall weather encourages me to curl up in bed a little earlier each night.  On my list (still): Wendell Berry’s work, Turn Here Sweet Corn and A Thousand Acres.  I’m also planning to soak up more of the beauty of the farming landscape as I travel for one final on-farm work trip before frost settles in.

Let’s conclude this long read with something more powerful than words about balance and celebration.  This image of a sheep farmer (who is also our dedicated NOFA-NY board president) at dawn exemplifies the patience and passion of those who care for our land and for our bodies.  We celebrate these farmers every time we choose local and organic food.  Having this food available depends on all of us (don’t forget the ways you chose to take action), keeping a balance of locavore-positive moments all year.

Maryrose Livingston of Northland Sheep Dairy walks her pasture at dawn. (Photo credit: Liz Henderson, Sept. 2013)

Maryrose Livingston of Northland Sheep Dairy walks her pasture at dawn. (Photo credit: Liz Henderson, Sept. 2013)

How A Locavore Executive Director Came to Be

20 Sep

We are so excited to have words from Kate Mendenhall, Executive Director of NOFA-NY to cap off this week’s Take Action theme.  Read on for her story of becoming interested in, and then highly passionate about, organic farming.  We know not all our readers plan to become executive directors of organic farming organizations, but we believe that this example of an (ahem) organic pathway from passion to action is a realistic form of inspiration.  Let it help you tune in and react to your surroundings, perhaps taking some unplanned leaps of faith about those issues that stir your soul (related to organic farming, we hope!).

Those of you who have grown up in the country know that the cycles of farming keep you sane and grounded. Although I did not have the opportunity to grow up on a farm, my little Iowa hometown was surrounded by miles and miles of farms—mostly corn, soybeans, and hogs. Watching the fields be prepared for planting, the corn and beans grow, and the combines out until the wee hours of the night harvesting were incredibly important in creating a landscape of comfort while I was growing up.

Because I didn’t grow up on a farm and farming happened around me, I was only peripherally tuned in. However, I did notice change happening in the 80’s. By the time I graduated from middle school, the farm crisis had caused almost all my friends who had grown up on farms to move into town. There was a heavy sadness about farming that I couldn’t quite understand, but I did start to put the pieces together. The size of farms was growing, the hog operations were growing and smelling more, and farm houses were removed to make way for more soybeans. Little towns in the middle of miles of corn were putting boards on the windows and surrendering as ghost towns. Schools were consolidating at an alarming rate, which to a small town can be the kiss of death. What do you do on a Friday night if you can’t root for the home team? When I expressed interest in studying ecology to someday become a farmer, I was told that there wasn’t a future in farming. I left Iowa for college feeling sad that the once thriving rural agriculture and the family farm were dying.

A young Kate Mendenhall hangs out with some big pumpkins.

A young Kate Mendenhall hangs out with some big pumpkins.

all grown up, still in costume!

all grown up, still in costume!

 

When I landed in Maine for college, I first was blown away by not being surrounded by the cycles of farming every day. I missed seeing for miles over tassels of waving corn. But what I did find was a thriving farmers market in downtown Brunswick, Maine where I peppered the organic farmers with questions about their farms and the food they were growing. At MOFGA’s Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine I saw hope for a new way of farming. I saw that while the Farm Crisis of the 80’s was destroying rural family farms in Iowa, the Northeast was paving the road for a different way of farming—one that worked with nature instead of against it, promoted small farms to support small rural communities, and supported each other as farmers. I was inspired. There was hope. And I was convinced that organic farming was the answer. I feel called to help grow this organic farming movement. It is our hope for a better future.

This movement is innovative, responsible, and creative! The community of organic farmers that make up New York State and NOFA-NY are some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. They are scientists, explorers, botanists, ecologists, entrepreneurs, inventors, and artists. They grow delicious food and make eating fun! NOFA-NY is also driven by incredibly dedicated eaters who vote for a better food system with their dollars at the farmers’ market, CSAs, farm stands, and co-ops. Together we can inspire a culture of change that is healthy for our soils, animals, plants, and people. This Locavore Month is a great opportunity to really revel in the glory and bounty of New York State’s delicious organic movement, and to thank our farmers for all their hard work in stewarding our open spaces and providing their communities with local organic food. Next time you buy organic food from your local farmers, give them a firm handshake and thank them for carving a better way forward. Eat up!

Thanks, farmers, for the delicious organic corn (and for keeping our communities small and intact) this September!

Thanks, farmers, for the delicious organic corn (and for keeping our communities small and intact) this September!

Interested in reading more from Kate?  Check out the Director’s Outlook in each issue of the New York Organic News (it’s mailed to you when you join NOFA-NY as a member, which supports our organization’s mission to keep organic farming part of our present and future lives, and you can access the archives online).

Making a Locavore Community, One College Student at a Time

17 Sep

Editor’s Note: I asked Madeline Smith to write from her personal experience about the great way she decided take action on behalf of local organic food and farming, which fit too perfectly into this week’s blogging theme.  Maddy’s work has a primary impact on the ground in Geneseo, but secondary potential to inspire each reader to consider ways and means they each have to boost the farm-to-table connections in their communities.  Thanks, Maddy, for sharing your project’s top objectives and inspiring us to think about how we can make an impact beyond our kitchens and backyards!

As a second-year NOFA-NY intern I, Maddy Smith, learned most things I know about local organic lifestyles and food just from being at this place, working with the Locavore Challenge and field days.  My lunchtime peanut butter and banana sandwich, eaten alongside avid gardeners and CSA members at lunch, would be a prime example of where I started with locavorism (editor’s note: nobody on NOFA-NY staff is judgmental toward others’ lunches, though we try to encourage each other to embrace local and organic eating.  Maddy’s sandwich choice may have remained constant over the years, but I have it on good authority she’s sourcing local bread and locally-produced nut butters).  In June 2012, I was under the assumption that organic was good and local was Wegmans.  To no one’s surprise – not even my own – I was wrong.  Those boxes of organic cereal, pita chips, and organic mixed greens that I piously bought weren’t homegrown (well, not near my home), though their manufacturers successfully marketed them to appear as such. Sure, they were somewhat tasty, but not in the multi-faceted way that homemade bread, granola, and dirt-covered beets are; the supermarket organic packaged foods were an attempt to bring the feel-good feeling of local, from 3,000 miles away.

And that’s the mindset that I’m trying to debunk and expose, right here in upstate New York at the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Geneseo, my future alma mater, and current home. The college rewarded me with a hefty grant, or ambassadorship, to bring a local foods program to the community. With the help of a newly formed Local Food Council comprised of students, faculty, and community members, I’ll have much help, and can ensure that the program lasts after I (hopefully) graduate in May.

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An overhead shot of SUNY Geneseo in the heart of the Genesee Valley

The project is called Think Local Geneseo, and it involves three parts:

  1. Increasing student and community participation in direct-market agriculture like the Geneseo Farmers Market and facilitating a partnership between Geneseo’s Campus Auxiliary Services and a Rochester food subscription/delivery group called the Good Food Collective to provide shares for students, faculty and community members
  2. Encouraging a large percentage of local foods in the college’s dining services, which will be further promoted through the Local Food Council’s participation in Food Day, part of the national Real Food Challenge
  3. Organizing events in Geneseo, including college-community cooking classes, a Locavore dinner, and local food speakers. Oh yes – and tabling for the Locavore Challenge, of course547097_715530565130453_1210342970_n

I know – it sounds like a lot! Put another way, we are interested in getting people to eat local organic food, to understand and appreciate where their food originated, and building relationships between the community and its surrounding farmland. At Geneseo, we have everything we need for a local foods program to thrive: curious students, like myself; the lush agriculture of New York State, especially in the Rochester region; knowledgeable and supportive faculty; and a vibrant community already playing host to a weekly farmers market. What we don’t have is someone, something, tying all of these components together.

That’s where I come in. Consider me the “ambassador” of local foods in Geneseo, NY. You see, Through my small and hopefully high-impact creation, I aim to increase local consumption in the town of Geneseo and show people the benefit of supporting local and/or organic farmers, while also transcending the boundary that exists between the college and the community. It’s through places like the farmers market, produce share drop-off days, and local food cooking classes and dinners that this can happen. College students can embrace the town that plays host to them for eight months, and the community can appreciate the students as they loosen their grip on the stereotype of college students that pinpoints them as junk-food eaters, night crawlers and mailbox destroyers.

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A summer shot of a Thursday at the Geneseo Farmers market

It’s a project that involves a lot of planning, coordination, and self-motivation, as this is a completely self-directed pursuit. It takes confidence to implement a completely new program for a whole town, without having a single clue as to how it will pan out; while hoping for the best, I do have some self-doubt sometimes. When that happens, I reach out to others for support, like key students and professors who will provide apt feedback, along with community members who can lend many hands. Fortunately, as this is a food-based project, I can also turn to Geneseo’s dining services for help.  Dining services’ Executive Director is the force behind the grant, not to mention the brains behind the cooking classes and dinners. With support from New York State organic producers like Once Again Nut Butter, and donations from small businesses in Geneseo, I have high hopes for the fall and the 2013 Locavore Challenge, and what it promises for Geneseo and small farmers alike.

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I’m slowly realizing that I have a bundle of local food and farming information and resources that will be valuable to others who are eager to learn, and to those who already know: NOFA-NY folks, farmers, and leaders of the sustainable food movement included, who will all reap the benefits of each fresh Locavore to add to the growing list. Follow along with Think Local Geneseo, and share the Locavore Love!

For more examples of college-level farm-to-school initiatives, check out: Winter Sun Farms connects to area colleges, Skidmore College local foods initiative, Cornell Dining defines local and regional food items, Emory University’s sustainable food initiative, Local Food to Local Institutions pamphlet (free download)

The “C” and the “S” in CSA

12 Sep

As we work our locavore muscles to strengthen our community, it only made sense to have a reflection from Nicky Dennis, Community Program Coordinator at NOFA-NY.  Here, she shares her reasons for committing to Commmunity Supported Agriculture, and what that has meant during the 2013 season.

One of my favorite things about the Locavore Challenge is the invitation to grow closer to the community of locavores, to get to know your farmers and food producers, and to inspire others to join in on the fun.  When my boyfriend Nick and I were shopping for a CSA, community was a critical element in our choice.  We were looking for the opportunity to get to know the other shareholders and spend time on the farm, getting to know the farmers and their operation.  When we met Jolene from Morse Family Farm at the Canandaigua CSA Fair, we were enamored by the way she spoke so lovingly of her crops and the excitement she had for every step of their growing process, from selecting heirloom seed to the thickness of the plastic they use for their greenhouses.  She also realized we’d be eating the food, so when she talked about making a stock from mizuna and how they select varieties for taste and nutrition, my chef boyfriend was sold.  We had so much hope, on that snowy February day, for all the goodness that was to come in spring, summer and fall.  Farmers that passionate and involved in their growing process couldn’t fail, it seemed.  Who could have known what intense weather was coming up for 2013’s growing season, affecting so many farmers in the northeast?

First share

Our first week’s food from Morse Family Farm

We received several gorgeous shares of from Morse Family Farm in the spring.  Then Jolene told us that the farm would have to take a break from distributions for about a month.  She explained how the incessant rain had compacted soil on top of their newly planted seeds (they might not germinate, and weren’t guaranteed to produce enough food in the coming months) and had made it impossible to bring tractors on the muddy fields to transplant crops (again, adding uncertainty to the land’s ability to produce even after the rains were hopefully going to let the fields dry out enough).  So many farms were experiencing similar struggles that it immediately brought to mind the community role in Community Supported Agriculture.  Nick and I reminded each other, that CSA is about sharing the risk when situations like this, which are beyond anyone’s control and happen despite careful planning, result in drastic loss.

Jolene was amazing with communication through all of the farm’s tribulations.  That really helped us keep up a positive relationship through the time period we weren’t receiving shares.  We felt that they were including us in the farm, which was, after all, why we wanted to join a CSA.  So the “S” in CSA didn’t just come from us to the farm; it came from the farm back to us as they wanted to tell us what was happening.  We felt supported by their understanding that we weren’t receiving what we and they had hoped for.

I sympathized with their frustrations and loss and hoped that spending a day on the farm, putting in some sweat equity, would reinforce that they had our support through thick and thin.  For me, being a locavore means that I will weather the storm alongside the farmers and delight in delayed gratification.

high tunnel cukes

Cucumbers protected by much of the troublesome weather inside a high tunnel structure at Morse Family Farm.

I headed out to the farm for a day of work in August.  Jolene and I spent the morning weeding the onion plot and chatting about brewing beer, our families, and how we both came to love farming.  Jolene grew up in Alaska where her dad was an organic farmer, supplying to local restaurants.  She met her partner Joe while they were both working (and training to be farmers) at Fellenz Family Farm, an organic CSA and pick-your-own farm in the area.  There is nothing that makes me swoon more than farmers who fall in love on a farm.  It’s easy to see how such passionate people bond when you see how much of themselves they put into their work.   The day I worked at the farm, their five kids were milling about the farm, totally embodying the farm-family lifestyle.  After a family lunch, we got to work reconstructing a high tunnel that was destroyed last winter (see photo below).  I went home covered in dirt and sweat and in an exhausted heap.  I felt proud that my body was up for the challenge.  I was grateful for the opportunity to see the farm, get my hands dirty, and for time spent getting to know the people who devotedly grow my food.

MFF apple orchard

The apple orchards on the farm.

Besides their wonderful family and dedication to producing quality food in the best way, I also respect Morse Family Farm’s dedication to natural resource conservation, low-impact materials use and whole-farm sustainability.  A lot of the implements and infrastructure (the non-plant elements of the land and farm) are repurposed, reused, or “hacked” to fit the needs of the farm.  A really cool thing I learned is that they have set up rain barrels underground, which are fed by farm drain tiles.  Normally, farm drain tiles are used to keep water from drowning the fields, though unfortunately this year’s rains were too much for even that normally functional system of crop protection.  Instead of the rainwater draining into a stream, the barrels collect the excess rainwater, which is then pumped into the farm’s irrigation system.

farm drain tile undrained and drained

To me, Morse Family Farm exemplifies principles of our Farmer’s Pledge program, from serving the health of the land and people to using ethical business practices.  To see three generations working together on the farm reminds me that I’m in it for the long haul.  I’m weathering the storm with them through this season because I know there will be bounty of food and community in the future.  The hope that I have now, as part of my farm’s and CSA’s community, is so much stronger than the excitement I had about receiving good food.  Now it’s about the people behind the food–I know they’re responsible farmers and real people I’ll know and engage in CSA with for years.

MFF family

Joe (dad, farmer, beekeeper), Jacob (son, farm worker), Jolene (mom, farmer), and Gary (grandpa, farmer, business partner, tool and equipment hacking specialist)

Cultivating Vegetable Literacy with Deborah Madison

22 Aug

Deborah Madison is a writer, chef, and cooking teacher living and gardening in Northern New Mexico. Known for her many vegetarian cookbooks, Deborah spoke with us about local food, gardening, eating, and her new book. Rebecca Heller-Steinberg had the opportunity to interview Deborah, and her full article can be found in the fall issue of New York Organic News.

Sign up today to host a Locavore Challenge Harvest Dinner and you could enter to win a signed copy of Deborah’s latest cookbook, Vegetable Literacy.

Tell us about your new book, Vegetable Literacy.

My main intention in the book is to introduce vegetables in a different way, instead of by so-called season or by dishes. It’s really a way of introducing people to the idea of plant families—just the twelve that include the most common vegetables and herbs we cook with. It’s about showing what plants are related to each other and how they might behave similarly in the kitchen.

What do you hope readers will get from this book?

I hope readers might get a sense of joy. It’s so much fun when you begin to get connected to your world. So if you begin to become aware of plant families and some of their similarities and what you can expect to find physically as characteristics, it’s very exciting.

What I hope farmers take home is the importance of sharing more information with their customers. Most of us see only certain parts of vegetables. Farmers can do a lot if they’re able to show us something more, like how big an entire leek is. If people knew how many feet of leaves there are on a single leek plant, I think they’d be kind of surprised—and impressed. I hope it stimulates an appetite for knowledge.

DM

Do you have any suggestions for what you think we as gardeners, cooks, eaters, and farmers can be doing to be prepared for unpredictable weather and climate change?

That’s an interesting question and a big question. I don’t know how to answer that and I think about it a lot for farmers. One of the things I did in my garden is try out a new crop. I was reading about field peas, a drought tolerant pea planted in the South and originally from North Africa. I tried growing them in my garden and they worked really well for me. So perhaps we should be thinking about trying [unfamiliar crops that are adapted to similar climates.] I think that questions about weather and climate change are going to involve cultural changes too.

Do you have any embarrassing or guilty pleasures when it comes to food?

I hate the guilty pleasure question. I don’t believe in guilt and food, I really don’t. I don’t have things that I go and hoard. I may have excess sometimes. Yesterday’s lunch was a lunch of excess, which I paid for this morning when I was in my spin class. But you know, it was an excess of really good wines and really good food and good company and sitting around far too long.

Essay Contest Runner-Up: You Are What You Eat by Aviva Friedman

15 Aug

Another runner-up essay from our Locavore Challenge writing contest – enjoy! These essays do not necessarily represent the opinions of NOFA-NY, its staff, or any of its certified organic or farmers pledge farms.  We hope they give you plenty to think about and discuss!

Consider: Eating is one of the most intimate things that we do, as what you ingest actually becomes part of your body.  In a day and age where the status quo is cheap, low-quality, high-quantity food, it is therefore out of the ordinary to seek out local, organic, nutritious and natural food.  What an interesting concept, considering our place as inhabitants of the Earth!  For thousands and thousands of years, we ate food that was grown with the beating sun as fuel, molded by years of natural selection.  We used the rain as our sprinklers to water our crops, and we used our hands to harvest them.  And within the last hundred or so years, we have completely disconnected from this process.  It now requires effort to overlook the household names of chain supermarkets, to ask where your food comes from, to grow your own food, or to buy from a local farmers market.

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Eating local and organic food is about so many things.  It is caring about your body and what goes into it, it is caring about the Earth that sustains us, but it is also about swimming upstream–saying no to the easier option.  Saying no to the omnipresent  corporations and yes to the local farmers.  Saying no to unhealthy, low-quality government subsidies and yes to fresh, natural produce.  It is taking an active stance in something that affects all of us.  Eating locally and organically is eating food with integrity.

About the author: Aviva Friedman is an Environmental Studies student at the State University of New York at Binghamton.

Essay Contest Runner Up: Connecting the Pieces by Melissa Brody

8 Aug

Another runner-up essay from our Locavore Challenge writing contest – enjoy! These essays do not necessarily represent the opinions of NOFA-NY, its staff, or any of its certified organic or farmers pledge farms.  We hope they give you plenty to think about and discuss!

My mom opened the fridge, searching for options. I had barely arrived and she already wanted to fill me with food. She turned and proudly announced she had bought brown eggs. She didn’t want to feel judged. “Where did they come from,” I asked. She stared at me in disbelief, then huffed, “Where did this obsession with local come from? You were never like this before.” She was right.

Growing up, I didn’t think twice about where my food came from; food was just there. While I was in college, a trip to McDonalds occurred at least once a week, and although we cooked, we opted for the exotics—mangoes, avocados, pineapples. They made us feel fancy. Yet somewhere along the way things changed, rapidly. My curiosity awoke and suddenly I wanted, no, needed, to know exactly what I was consuming and where it came from.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Brody

Photo courtesy of Melissa Brody

I traded exotic delicacies for local produce. My senses became alive to the touch, smell, sight, and taste of local food. The first time I tasted an heirloom tomato, I wondered why I spent so many years forcing flavorless supermarket tomatoes down my throat. I became aware of the thick layers of wax that coated far-traveled cucumbers. For the first time I saw baby carrots for what they really were, and considered the labor and waste that went into making those perfectly petit creations.

I became jaded at first, angry about what people bought. Why sell California strawberries in June when they’re growing practically at our feet? Asparagus in December no longer seemed natural. But through my adventure into local, I found so much more than food. Eating local brought me community. We joined a co-op. I no longer dreaded food shopping because I now had a say not just in what I was eating, but what the store carried. We joined a CSA and found neighbors we never knew we had. We visited farms and farmers markets, learning not just where but how our food grew.

Food now had a face. Picking up a fava bean brings me back to the farm stand where the farmer took time to explain how to peel the beans and his favorite way to prepare them. A spoonful of applesauce reminds me of the unseasonably warm September weekend we spent picking apples upstate, then bringing the fruit home to can. An omelet transports me to my first visit to Stone Barns where I collected eggs while chickens pecked at my sneakers.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Brody

Photo courtesy of Melissa Brody

My journey as a locavore has affected my life in ways I could never have imagined. I look at the world differently. I have yet to pinpoint the moment in my life when everything changed. I’m not sure who or what convinced me to question why raspberries, peas, and butternut squash are always available all year long. But I’ve learned to connect the pieces—to understand my impact on this earth, to realize the labor that goes into the meal that sits in front of me and to savor each bite that enters my mouth.

About the author: Melissa Brody is a marketing professional by day, food blogger by night. She is an advocate of the local food movement and founding member of the Bay Ridge Food Co-op. Melissa’s blog, Brooklyn Locavore (bklynlocavore.com) features seasonal original and adapted recipes and locavore finds.

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