Where has all the produce gone?

I have several things I've been thinking of blogging about for the last week, but I haven't taken the time to sit down at the computer and do it. Hopefully I'll also get to touch on my spinning exploits here....but first, I want to write about my quest for local produce.

I love to eat, and I love good food. There's been so much written recently about the importance of eating local food, and of course we all know we should eat lots of fruits and veggies (my recent read on the subject was Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, which I enjoyed and recommend). For much of the year in Ontario, these pieces of advice seem to contradict each other--in January, it's hard to find a lot of local fresh produce, and realistically most of us aren't canning and preserving huge amounts of it. However, now it is the height of summer, the best time to eat local produce. And I live in a small town surrounded by farms, so there should be easy access to such foods, right?

Think again. One thing I have been searching for is a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, I believe)--a farm in which you can buy a "share" and then get a weekly box all season of their produce. There are tons of them in the Toronto area, but none within about a 30 minute drive of me, apparently. And driving 30 minutes or more to pick up your veggies every week doesn't seem like a good environmental practice to me.

Our town has a weekly farmer's market, and I've been a few times this summer. This year there seem to be dramatically fewer farmers than in the past, and they're selling fewer fruits and veggies. In fact, yesterday, I don't think there was ANY fruit....no blueberries, no peaches, nothing, despite the fact that they are most definitely in season. We did find some lovely beans, and fresh garlic, and there were a few other veggies around. But not the plenty that one would expect. I'm not sure of the reason for it, although my guess is that it's a combination of lack of demand--despite all the talk about eating local, I don't think there is a big move here yet to do so--and big business farming, which has driven most farmers to plant all their acres with corn and soybeans.

We did head to the larger "farmer's market" in town, which isn't really a farmer's market at all. It's open year-round, and most of the year sells non-local produce, along with a lot of junk, and some local meat. The good news is that right now they do have mostly local produce (although I was made skeptical of some of these claims by the large display of oranges whose price was actually displayed on a Ontario produce sign. Really. Oranges!). So we stocked up there. Sadly, because they are only open Friday & Saturday, and I will probably be out of town those days next week, I will likely have to rely on imported grocery store goods for a little bit....like the Chinese garlic they always have on hand!

Oh, and yes, I know I'm capable of growing my own for many of these products. In fact, I have several packets of seeds of various unusual and heirloom veggies waiting to be planted. But since in the spring I thought we would be long gone from this house by now, I have refrained from putting very much in the ground, focusing on the established herbs and a few potted annual herbs. The good news is that my tomatoes self-seeded last year when a few of them were left to rot on the vine, to I do have a few tomato plants to look forward to....although it may be September before I get anything off of them. But I dream of a day when I have a big, huge vegetable garden and can enjoy all kinds of abundant goodies.

I could rant on and on about this (while I've been writing I've thought about my other foodie quests--pastured meat, a good fishmonger, etc.--which have all borne no fruit so far), but I'll stop here. And maybe later I'll post a more cheery message about my latest spinning exploits during the "Tour de Fleece"!


Julie Lawson said…
Hey Linds! As you might expect, our CSAs aren't exactly local either--mostly 90+ minutes away, out in the mountains. But the majority of them will schlep all the boxes for city residents one day each week, so everyone goes to a more convenient (downtown-ish) location. You're of course always welcome to visit the farm if you wish, but it's a nice little service for us city folks.

Even if the CSAs in your area can't offer that service, perhaps they can connect you with someone else in your neighborhood, and you can alternate who makes the pickup?

That said, my grandfather-in-law insists on getting us Harry & David's fruit of the month club every year. Nothing like getting a box of apples from New Zealand in July to get my sustainable hackles up.

I hope all is well with you!

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