When it’s not Local

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People assume that because I consider myself a locavore that I eat 100% local food. Wrong. I hope to someday get to that place – but at this stage in my life that is not realistic. Right now, I eat about 70% local food and that bumps up to about 80% in the summer and fall when the farmers markets are in full swing. So what about that other 30%?

I do my best to be a conscious consumer whether it’s local or not. So here is what that looks like for me:

Organic

I probably buy 90% organic food.

I probably buy 90% organic food. I make sure that all my meats, dairy and produce are organic and the 10% of non-organic usually accounts for baked or packaged items. And I definitely do not buy anything with high fructose corn syrup.

Seasonal

No matter where you live there are seasonal foods, and across the country there are seasonal foods. When I’m not buying local, I still do my best to buy only what’s in season. So I never buy berries in winter because I know they are being flown in from who knows where and aren’t ripe, and I only buy oranges in the fall and winter when they are in season in Florida.

Freebies

There are some things I love that I know I will never be able to get locally in TN like oranges, bananas, pineapple, avocado, grapes, cherries, lemons and limes. I don’t buy these items every time I go to the store, but occasionally I like to treat myself. I just make sure it’s organic and do my best to get those items from a place grown in America.

Restaurants

try to eat at an independent, locally owned restaurant

It’s true, Chris and I eat out a lot. We always try to eat at an independent, locally owned restaurant. And if possible, we always pick a restaurant that has some local food options on the menu. We are lucky that there are so many great places in Nashville that fit both of those criteria.

 

Overall, my goal is to be a conscious consumer of food. If you can’t eat 100% local, start somewhere and do it incrementally. Every step helps, and with each season you will become more of a locavore.


Mary Crimmins

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Mary is the Farmers Market and Marketing Manager of the 12 South Farmers Market in Nashville, TN. She is also an Independent Product Consultant of doTERRA Essential Oils. The goal of Mary's blog is to bring to light the relevant issues that we are facing in our current food system and creatively come up with ways to become more sustainable and local. She also writes on how to improve your body, mind and soul and offers advice on how to live life as naturally as possible. She focusing on natural healthcare and habits including the use of essential oils and alternative methods of healing and preventing disease.

She says "Where ever I go, I am dedicated to the local food movement and living a natural lifestyle and look forward to seeing this movement grow and become part of our everyday lives and culture!"

Local vs Organic

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When you can only choose one: say local produce maybe or maybe not grown using sustainable, organic methods or organic produce shipped in from across the country, which do you choose?

First and foremost local organic food is the best option. Not only is it grown without using pesticides and chemicals – it is at it’s peak of nutritional content. The issue comes when you are looking at buying one or the other. There are several factors at play here. Many times you are choosing to support a local farm and keep the transport of food low vs controlled growing practices. I will always lean towards buying local.

It would also depend on what it was. I would never buy conventional corn for example because I wouldn’t want to eat from a GMO seed. Therefore, I would go organic before conventional local on this one. Anytime a GMO seed is used I would avoid it. But let’s take a closer look at the Pros and Cons of each and you can decide for yourself.

 

When I can’t buy an item locally and have to purchase something from the supermarket I make sure it’s organic. Thankfully I have always had an option to buy organic (certified or not) and local.

The best advice I can give you is to get to know your farmer. If their produce is not organic ask about their practices. Do they use chemicals etc? Many times someone who is a local conventional farmer will have practices closer to organic than you might think. Arm yourself with knowledge before making a final choice. At the end of the day: choosing fresh living food is better than processed food no matter how it was grown.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In regards to Organic Certification, many small farms use sustainable growing practices that are above and beyond what the USDA has set for growers to use the Organic label. There is a lot of discontent within the sustainable farming community with Organic labeling. It's very expensive and requires a good chunk of time. The Organic requirements have also been relaxed quite a bit in recent years due to heavy lobbying by large conventional growers. EatLocalGrown recommends that whenever possible you get to know your local farmers. Ask them lots of questions about their farming practices, and keep looking until you find farmers that you trust. We've done this and found that we really learned a lot (and made some good friends). It's nice to know the people that are growing the food that you and your family eats!


Mary Crimmins

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Mary is the Farmers Market and Marketing Manager of the 12 South Farmers Market in Nashville, TN. She is also an Independent Product Consultant of doTERRA Essential Oils. The goal of Mary's blog is to bring to light the relevant issues that we are facing in our current food system and creatively come up with ways to become more sustainable and local. She also writes on how to improve your body, mind and soul and offers advice on how to live life as naturally as possible. She focusing on natural healthcare and habits including the use of essential oils and alternative methods of healing and preventing disease.

She says "Where ever I go, I am dedicated to the local food movement and living a natural lifestyle and look forward to seeing this movement grow and become part of our everyday lives and culture!"

Top 10 Ways to Prepare Kale

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My body has been deprived of leafy greens this summer. It has been so hot here in Nashville, that no greens stood a chance to grow in the blazing heat. Last week, I saw a familiar friend at the Market – KALE! I couldn’t believe it. For me this marked the end of the summer, and the promise of cooler temperatures to come.

So I over zealously bought 5 bunches, which set me back about $15. I didn’t care, I had kale.

Once I got home I realized that I couldn’t really fit all 5 bunches in my refrigerator, so I needed to deal with it in the next day or so. So I decided to make up a big batch of kale pesto that I could freeze. (Recipe)

After receiving lots of messages via twitter about what else people could do with kale, I figured I’d better help ya’ll out and offer a few ways to prepare it. It’s no secret that kale is one of nature’s super foods, and getting it into your diet is worth the effort.

10 Great Ways to Eat Kale...

  1. Kale Chips – This simple preparation of kale will have you begging for more. A crispy salty treat that is better than popcorn or potato chips.
     
  2. Kale Pesto – More flavorful than basil pesto, this is a great addition to pizza, pasta, or in an omelet.
     
  3. Sauteed Kale – For a hearty side dish, this is a classic preparation. I saute onions and garlic before I add the kale, and add a couple dashes of hot sauce for an added kick.
     
  4. Kale Quiche – You can substitute any spinach quiche with kale and it offers the same great taste with the added health benefits.
     
  5. Kale Soup – A classic kale soup is made with white beans and ham or sausage, however I like this recipe of using acorn squash and kale to create a sweet and savory winter favorite.
     
  6. Kale Lasagna – The perfect “make ahead” recipe for a hearty dinner is a dish the whole family can enjoy.
     
  7. Kale Juice – If you own a juicer, kale is quite possibly the healthiest thing to juice. Mix it with apples, carrot and a little lemon for a drink that is better for you than liquid gold.
     
  8. Kale Slaw – You can substitute raw kale for raw cabbage in this recipe.
     
  9. Kale Pasta – One of my favorite ingredients to add to pasta. Goes with just about anything from spaghetti to sausage pasta to baked macaroni and cheese.
     
  10. Kale Pizza – One of the joys I’ve found with eating seasonally is changing up my grilled pizza toppings. One of my favorite combinations is sauteed kale, caramelized onions, strong white cheeses, and some crispy bacon.

Overall, kale is a delicious and hearty green. Treat it like spinach and you can substitute it in just about any recipe. Experiment and enjoy!


marycolorado-91-1395085949.jpg

Mary is the Farmers Market and Marketing Manager of the 12 South Farmers Market in Nashville, TN. She is also an Independent Product Consultant of doTERRA Essential Oils. The goal of Mary's blog is to bring to light the relevant issues that we are facing in our current food system and creatively come up with ways to become more sustainable and local. She also writes on how to improve your body, mind and soul and offers advice on how to live life as naturally as possible. She focusing on natural healthcare and habits including the use of essential oils and alternative methods of healing and preventing disease.

She says "Where ever I go, I am dedicated to the local food movement and living a natural lifestyle and look forward to seeing this movement grow and become part of our everyday lives and culture!"

5 Keys to Creating a Successful Farmers Market Stand

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Two years ago, I expanded my home gardening project to include additional harvestable items I could sell at our local farmers market. I was excited to try my hand at making money from something I was passionate about, and I was excited about becoming part of a farmers market community. However, I was also nervous. Would shoppers buy my produce? Would I be able to market my products in an appealing way? Would I be able to gain the respect of other market vendors? Would I actually make a profit?

There was no way to know the answers to these questions without giving it a try, and so, while my baby seedlings were slowly transforming into plants that would produce harvestable food, I used my down time to come up with a plan. I had some strong ideas about my vision already (like booth decorating ideas), but there were a lot of things I didn't know (like how to price my produce).

Below is a list of tips that I've developed after two years of running a successful market business. Some of these were learned pretty quickly, while others were picked up throughout the journey.

1. Market Research

Visit other farmers markets and observe how other vendors sell things. What booths appeal to you as a shopper? Why? What booths don't appeal to you? Why? Which booths seem the most popular? Why do you think that is? How much do other farmers sell their produce for? The more times you visit various farmers markets, the more helpful ideas you'll pick up.

Example: At one market that I visited, I noticed a vendor that used a very prominent chalk board to list his items that were for sale. When I arrived at the market (a couple hours after it had opened), more than half of this items had been crossed out. Seeing this sent a strong message to me. It made me feel like, a) this guy has great stuff, and b) I need to get here early if I want to get some because clearly it goes fast. After seeing that, I did the same thing at my market booth and really saw it influence (in a good way) shoppers' behaviors.

2. Pile it high, watch it fly

This was a lesson I learned early on in my farmers market days. People are drawn to plenty so pile your goods high. Make your booth look like it's overflowing with abundance. For big farms, this isn't difficult to do, but for small market garden businesses, it can be more challenging. If that's you, then make it look like your booth is abundant even if it isn't. Created a tiered table with boxes of varying heights to give the illusion of deeper piles of vegetables than you really have, or fill up the bottom of baskets with burlap sacks to make those onions on top look like they're just a few of many. We experimented with this idea a lot and every time, without fail, the more abundant we made our booth look, the more shoppers we got stopping by to take a closer look.

3. Consistent High Quality Earns Customer Trust

This should seem obvious, but trust me, I've seen a lot of low quality produce at farmers market stands. If you provide high quality goods, you will be rewarded with loyal customers. Be a stickler about this. Don't let something questionable slip into a customers hands, otherwise you may not see that customer come back. Although our business was a very small market garden business, we were strict about not bringing anything sub-par to market. By sub-par I mean produce that had been heavily munched on by bugs, wilted greens, or items that had been harvested more than two days earlier (other than good storage items like winter squash). Ask yourself, "If I were hand-delivering this to the chef of a high end restaurant, would I be proud of the quality of my goods or embarrassed by it?". If the answer isn't proud, then leave it at home. If you provide consistently high quality goods to your market customers, they will come to expect that from you and they will rely on you when they want the really good stuff. This is a good thing.

To ensure freshness, we always harvested our produce the day before or the morning of the farmers market. If we didn't have a lot of some items, we'd display them in a way that gave the illusion that there was a lot. | Source

4. Make Signage Attractive, Helpful, and Portable

Customers want to know who you are, where you're from, what you're selling, and what it costs. And you don't want them to forget any of that information. So...

  • Who you are: What is your farm name or your business name? Nothing drives me nuttier than seeing farm produce at markets with no indication of what farm it came from. Shoppers shouldn't have to ask who you are. It should be obvious. Create a large, attractive sign for your market booth. Make sure shoppers can see it from across the aisle or from a few stalls down. Some market shoppers are shy and don't want to have to walk right up to a vendor to find out the information they're looking for.
     
  • Where you're from: As the concept of local food grows in popularity, more and more market shoppers want to know exactly where their produce is coming from. Many will ask you directly, but the shy shoppers won't, so provide them the information up front. We kept a chalkboard at our booth that communicated to customers, "We grow everything ourselves, right here in Maple Ridge!".
     
  • What you're selling: What you're selling might seem obvious to you since most of it is probably displayed prominently at your stall. However, in addition to having descriptive signs next to every kind of produce item we sold, we also had a larger chalkboard off to one sign with a list of all the items. Not only did this give shoppers multiple opportunities to become aware of our goods, it also helped market some of the smaller items that might not have been obvious from first glances at the table. Additionally, if you are selling items that require being kept in coolers or fridges (meat, cheese, eggs, etc), you may not be able to put any on display, so having obvious signs highlighting your wares will help draw in shoppers.
     
  • What it costs: Always include prices with your signs. Many shoppers don't want to have to ask and so will avoid you altogether if you don't have prices listed. Lack of prices can also breed distrust as shoppers may suspect you're over-charging them or charging them a different price than other shoppers pay.
     
  • The Take Away: Don't let customers forget who you are. Send them home with a business card or cute tags tied around their purchase. That way, when they're ooh-ing and ahh-ing over their delicious kale at home, they won't forget who grew it for them.

5. Befriend Other Vendors

This tip is so rewarding. One of our absolute favourite parts about being a vendor at a farmers market was building relationships with the other vendors. View yourselves as a team, not competitors. If you do this, you'll find that the benefits you reap from those relationships will be worth their weight in gold. If you're new to the market business, you'll get helpful advice and warm welcomes. If another vendor doesn't have what a customer is looking for, they'll send the customer in your direction. You'll have vendors to trade with at the end of the day (bunch of kale for a loaf of bread, anyone?). And on those slow, rainy, market days, when no customers are around, you'll have great people to talk to and drink coffee with.


Written by Jocelyn Durston

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Farmer, blogger and homesteading enthusiast, Jocelyn Durston holds a MPhil in Environmental & Sustainable Development Economics and a BA in International Studies. Former policy analyst on issues of environmental protection and human rights. Recently relocated to Nova Scotia from British Columbia in search of real estate to pursue farming and homesteading business ownership opportunities.

Are you sure you’re buying from the Farmer?

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Farmers Markets have been gaining in popularity all across the country. Woo-hoo! It’s so encouraging to see new small farms pop up each year. In fact, I just met a new farmer last weekend at my local market and was able to ask him all about his growing practices. We had a long conversation about why he wasn’t certified organic, and what steps he took to grow without pesticides and chemicals.

Sadly, as markets become more common place expect to see more produce re-sellers. What is a re-seller? A re-seller is someone who buys produce that may or may not be local and then re-sells it at a farmers market.

Examples:

Someone buys produce from a local produce house at wholesale prices and then sells it retail.

Giveaways: Produce that is NOT in season, or displayed in bulk. Produce that may look extra clean and shiny just like the grocery store (no dirt or bugs).

Issue: This produce is not local. Or it has been grown by a conventional mass farmer. There are no quality standards, and you can be sure it’s not grown organically or naturally.


Someone who buys produce from the Amish and then resells it. (Different than Mennonites selling their own)

Giveaways: Produce varieties that aren’t grown by other farmers. They may have something that no one else has. Table may have lots of jams and jellies on it from another city than where the produce may come from.

Issue: You aren’t able to speak directly to your farmer. Amish produce is assumed to be organic, but most use commercial pesticides. However, some have adopted organic practices. Produce may be from a multitude of different farms, all with different growing practices. Again, no quality standards and no guarantee what you are getting.

How to Make Sure You Are Getting Your Produce from the Actual Farmer:

1. Ask lots of questions. Ask the person at the booth if they are the farmer. Ask them if they grow the food. Ask them what their growing practices are. Really get to know your farmer. Don’t just ask where is their farm located.

2. Check to see if your Farmers Market is a Producer-Only Market. You can email the market manager to ask if they have any produce re-sellers at the market.

3. If you still aren’t sure, ask the Farmer if they do farm visits. If they shutter or hesitate, take your business elsewhere. Farmers should be transparent and expect and want to have tours.

Why It’s Important to Buy from the Actual Farmer:

1. You are financially supporting a small family farm. Family farms don’t make a huge living. Most will tell you they do this because of the love for farming, the love of good nutritious food, and the opportunity to share that with YOU.

2. Keep the local food movement pure. It’s really easy for impostures to ride the success of the local food movement, and we want to make sure that it stays about the small family farmers who have dedicated their lives to this, not those seeing an opportunity.

 3. You get to shake the hand of the person who grew your food. The farmer/customer relationship is so valuable and truly a unique and beautiful thing. That is what sets a farmers market apart from a grocery store. You get to connect with your farmer, and ask about your food.

At the end of the day, support the person who you can look in the eyes and thank for their hard work to feed your family. It’s as simple as that.

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marycolorado-91-1395085949.jpg

Mary is the Farmers Market and Marketing Manager of the 12 South Farmers Market in Nashville, TN. She is also an Independent Product Consultant of doTERRA Essential Oils. The goal of Mary's blog is to bring to light the relevant issues that we are facing in our current food system and creatively come up with ways to become more sustainable and local. She also writes on how to improve your body, mind and soul and offers advice on how to live life as naturally as possible. She focusing on natural healthcare and habits including the use of essential oils and alternative methods of healing and preventing disease.

She says "Where ever I go, I am dedicated to the local food movement and living a natural lifestyle and look forward to seeing this movement grow and become part of our everyday lives and culture!"