A few days ago, I posted a list of challenges, little ways we can make a big impact. I want to expand a little on some of these topics. Tonight I will just talk about the first one: "Find and patronize local farmers, in whatever venue you desire, and then ask them if you can help solve their salvage or abundance problem. What is extra that you can acquire, perhaps at a discount in volume, to reduce throwaways?"
Find out who the local farmers are for starters. If you don't already know, try looking online. My favorite site for this is www.localharvest.org, which is a listing of farmer's markets and family farms, as well as some other sources of local sustainably grown food. This is the same site that I mentioned when I talked about CSAs in a previous post. Joining a CSA is a great way to get to know your local farmer personally by meeting up at a designated time each week to pick up a basket or crate of seasonal produce straight from the field. If you can't commit to a CSA (most require an up-front fee for the whole year), try the local farmer's market. If you go to the farmer's market before the grocery store, you may be surprised how much less you need at the store. If you have a deep freezer, you can buy meat locally and in bulk to save money and support local farms instead of huge corporations that process meat in disgusting conditions and raise the animals in even more shocking conditions. Imagine going to a local farm, purchasing an entire cow that was grass fed as nature intended, and filling the freezer with all that meat. Instead of running to the store to grab something for dinner, you can run to the freezer and choose ribs, ground beef, roast, ribeyes...you get the point!
If you learn how to freeze, can, or dry fruits and veggies to preserve them, you can ask vendors at the farmer's market about the produce they are throwing away. Perhaps they will let you take this overstock in bulk at a discount and even let you get it on a regular basis. They may even give it to you for free! These are items that are less than perfect and won't get picked up on the table at full price. Why let them go to waste? This could be your winter's supply of vegetables! You may never need to buy veggies in aluminum cans again!
Personally, I know how to "put up" many vegetables by blanching and then freezing and this is probably the easiest technique for preserving. I love to stock up on corn, tomatoes, and, my favorite, speckled butter beans. I get the corn from a farm about 20 minutes away. The farmer is friends with my parents and lets them take what they can pick by hand before he harvests the whole crop. I grow the tomatoes myself, and if I have a shortage my parents always grow tomatoes, too. We share if we have an overly abundant crop. The butter beans I buy form a farm that's about an hour away. They sale them to me directly by the bushel at wholesale prices.
I hope to soon be able to start doing some canning. I have done some reading on the processes and my mom does preserves and jams and jellies so she can give me advice, too. Getting started for a beginner can take a little money. I need a pressure cooker and I am currently on the hunt for a used one. I need more jars (I found a few at a local auction for free...people leave what they don't want when buying "lots"...more on that later...may be another blog...hmmm) and lids. I will keep you posted on this upcoming project.
Do you preserve summer produce for winter? What methods do you use? Care to share some canning advice with a beginner? I'd love to hear some comments on this!