So it’s all over. And I have to admit that I let a few non-local foods slip past my lips. But for the most part, everything I purchased during the month of May was locally grown. I never found local black beans and I still haven’t eaten local goat cheese, although I did find a local goat dairy on May 31st: Rinconada Dairy in Atascadero makes goat and sheep’s milk cheeses. So from now on, I’ll try to purchase from them as much as possible.
This month has been more than a challenge… it’s been a life changing experience. I’ve formed habits that will stay in place for more than a few months. My grocery shopping is no longer a chore. In fact, Saturday mornings at the farmer’s market are now my favorite time of the week. Every Saturday morning, I roll out of bed, grab my beat-up basket, and cruise down to the SLO Promenade with mental lists of what I have and what I need. I have my spring time staples: asparagus, beets, fava beans, shitake mushrooms, eggs, shallots, green garlic, leeks. And then there’s the surprises. Two weeks ago there were the peaches, sweet and small. Last week it was green tomatos. This week, blueberries! And Lambsquarters!
Spring is coming to a close, although it feels like we missed out on most of our beautiful spring weather. It went from pouring rain to hot, windy days much too quickly. The first of the summer squash made its way to the market today: Magda squash, one of my favorites. A sign that the summer corn and early tomatos shouldn’t be far behind.
Last week I went to see Michael Ableman speak at the SLO Masonic Temple. As a matter of fact, I went to see him speak on May 31st. Quite a fitting end to my month of local eating. He read from his newest book, Fields of Plenty, showed some of his amazing photography, and encouraged young people to pursue farming as a career. “How do we get young people in to farming?” he asked. His answer: the sex. A farm is basically a large-scale orgy of pollen, pistil, and stamen. This brought a laugh from the crowd.
“I’m over the organic thing,” he said when someone questioned him about certified organic vs. sustainable farming. “Supporting local foodsheds and small farmers is much more important to me now.”
The point he emphasized the most: we are on the verge of a new age. A shift in lifestyle is looming and will be upon us sooner than we hope. We can no longer ignore the inevitable future. A world wide culture built upon fossil fuels is no longer an option. So befriend a local farmer or two.
I’m starting to make friends with my farmers. This brings food to a whole new level. There’s a deeper connection. And its not just that the food is fresher and more flavorful then what I can pluck from my super market shelves. The hands, dirt-stained and calloused, that presented the ciogga beets (for example) to me today are the same hands that planted the seed months ago, cultivated, nurtured, and protected a young plant, then finally pulled the roots from the ground just yesterday.
And there’s the rub.