Tag Archives: long read

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)

A Month of Locavore-Positive Action!

1 Sep

Today is day one of this year’s NOFA-NY Locavore Challenge!  It seemed appropriate to write our first long read on the topic of the choice to have a whole (long) month, again, to focus on supporting local and organic farms through our food, activity, and advocacy choices.  We at NOFA-NY are not expecting that everyone comes to the Locavore idea from the same experience, or even with as much enthusiasm as we do.  On the other hand, we don’t use the word “challenge” to make you worried that each decision will be hard.  “Locavore Focus Month” or “Locavore Encouragement Month” just don’t have that same ring and excitement to them as “Locavore Challenge.”

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Really, “challenge” is a verb here.  We’re challenging you to meet September’s potential by seeing your decisions from a Locavore perspective.  You can choose your own adventure, which is made up of many moments and decisions.    How many of them can you make into Locavore-positive moments?  When you add up your Locavore-positive decisions at the end of the month, you may even realize that it would have seemed a monumental task to take on if you’d made a to-do list at the outset.  It’s good to have your own rules, guidelines, and a to-try list.  That’s definitely what this month is for… motivating yourself  to support local, organic and farmer’s-pledge farms, your local economy, and perhaps your health (assuming you don’t use the Locavore prerogative to subsist on local cheeses, ice cream and wine for all of September).

grain on sieveLet’s talk about the opportunities a month-long challenge presents in terms of the small decisions we each make regularly.  Eating breakfast (and yes you should, especially with so many local goodies for this mealtime), think about what goes into it.  Each component presents a decision.  What do you normally eat, and what could you trade up for a locally-produced food?  No, don’t over-think it.  But think about it a little bit.  You can put brown sugar (not local) or maple syrup (the local stuff) on your (maybe local) bowl of oats or cooked-grain cereal.  And while you’re considering breakfast cereals, have you ever tried cooked and cooled wheat berries as a healthy breakfast cereal? They’ll never get soggy like dry cereals, and you can keep plenty of cooked grain on hand for a fast morning breakfast.  Look for locally-grown wheat, spelt, rye grains (called berries) or Freekeh (which is a roasted green spelt grain with a nutty and smoky flavor–great for bacon lovers).  Your choice, but we recommend you try it as part of the challenge.  You could eat yogurt produced by a local food artisan or a farmer themselves, or you could eat local HOMEMADE yogurt, and you could add in ONLY locally-grown fruits, put some local honey on top, and chew it all slowly while thinking appreciative thoughts about the farmers who moved fencing every 12 hours to keep the cows on fresh grass, and then who milked the cows, kept the milk clean and sanitary through its journey from cow to yogurt making to market to your breakfast bowl (wait, is that breakfast bowl made by a local potter? Okay, just kidding).

Spotted at NOFA-NY HQ: wheat berries, homemade yogurt and local fruit for an on-the-go breakfast.

Spotted at NOFA-NY HQ: wheat berries, homemade yogurt and local fruit for an on-the-go breakfast.

What other decision points are there?  Too many to name!  You probably don’t eat in the house every day.  What food do you take with you to your sit-down job?  That’s a decision and you can challenge yourself to remember to pack a local-foods-focused meal each day.  Maybe your decision is to cook extra of that recipe that uses local chicken, and you bring that for part of your lunch one or two days.  Maybe that local organic chicken is a bit out of your price range for a double recipe, so you decide that those local organic potatoes and carrots, so flavorful at the end of September, would bulk up that dish and give you enough for leftovers.  And maybe your hand hovers around your go-to-makes-everything-taste-better bottled spice blend, and then you remember you impulse-bought a blend of dried herbs from that sweet hippie at the farmers market two weeks ago.  In September, go for the local decision.

Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, NY

Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, NY

You just packed a whole lot of Locavore-positive decisions into one meal, one moment, and you build some great habits.  You can do that, and you can do more!  You have a whole month!  What do you normally take with you when you’ve overslept and feel a time crunch getting where you need to go?  Make a local-positive choice in September.  Locally-grown apples (maybe you picked them yourself) are just as portable as a banana.  Bananas don’t grow in New York; apples definitely do.  Why only grab one apple from your stockpile?  Take several, and keep them at work, and then that one decision will have a multiplier effect.  No need to scrounge up a granola bar or a bag of chips when you have an apple at arm’s length!  You’ll slowly train yourself to take the small steps that allow you to make the good decisions, and it really starts with simply examining some of your actions and eating decisions.

Some of our decisions fall into that presence-of-mind category and aren’t entirely visible.  These are decisions that make the food you’re eating matter a bit more, as you actually pay attention to it.  What’s the point of a great locally-sourced meal that you kind of ignore while you watch TV?  You can decide to turn off the technology that generally accompanies your morning, just try it on Tuesdays to start (turn-off Tuesdays, as a way to remember), and focus in on how thankful you are for those who crouched over the melon vines, and then found the energy to keep each melon from bursting (they’re very fragile when they’re picked ripe) in the back of a truck on the way to your farmers market.  You can even let yourself feel a little smug for passing over that plastic clamshell package of nonlocal berries in favor of that melon, even though you really wanted to make the delicious-looking strawberry shortcake recipe trending on Pinterest (don’t those pinners know what’s in season?).

A lot else, besides eating, happens in any given month, of course!  It’s easy to get Locavore-foodie fatigue, or feel like all you’re talking about is food.  When that happens, maybe you shift focus to a Locavore experience, to researching ways you can conserve farmland in New York, or to calling up a friend you haven’t seen in a while to go apple picking (the movies and coffee dates are for non-September months; picking fruit or strolling a local-focused event are September outings).  You’ve decided to do something Locavore-positive with that time, so nice work!  Soon enough (maybe not that same day), you’ll be excited to tackle that recipe substitution project to convert Aunt Sally’s famous chicken pot pie recipe into a local-foods-heavy family favorite, because your earlier activities remind you how food choices are facilitated by ALL the ways you support local food and farming.  And that connection lets you appreciate that you (okay, begrudgingly, because you wanted to watch TV) spent a drizzly, humid morning with your kids, trying to keep their hands from sneaking those berries at the farm stand (scolding them but silently grateful they’re developing a taste for fruit and not artificial flavors) while you loaded up on sweet corn that you’d eventually teach your berry-stained-fingered kids to shuck in the front yard.  If you’re making Locavore-positive decisions, and creating experiences around them, you’re doing the Locavore Challenge!

YayForFarming_ErinBullock

Don’t forget to share with us–each Sunday we plan to highlight interesting comments, tweets, Facebook posts and photos from the previous week.  Yes, you also make decisions about what you share, and we challenge you to spread the Locavore love whenever you can!

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