Posted on by John Rife
From John: My interest in local food began in earnest with the reading of Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma in 2006. Not long afterwards, my wife Kamrin and I took a three-month road trip around the US that forever changed the way we thought about food. Along the way, we experienced nascent local food economies sprouting up in opposition to our nation’s petrochemical-powered, industrialized food system. From public-markets to owner-operated restaurants, we witnessed farmers, chefs and foodies creating a vibrant alternative to the commoditized, corn syrup-infused food culture that Pollan’s missive decried.
Inspired, we returned to Central Florida committed to finding ways to make eating locally a part of our lives. Over the past six years we’ve developed a few habits and acquired a few tools, which have made this commitment a “way of life” rather than a “food-fad”.
Our entire team at East End is committed to this “way of life” and we’re passionate about helping others do the same. What follows are our team’s top tips for making eating locally a reality for you in the new year.
1. Visit your local producers at the farmers market or co-op, then go to the grocery store for the items you could not find locally. Don’t have time to shop around? Join a CSA (Community Supported/Shared Agriculture) and let the farmer harvest a basket of produce for you weekly. Emma Morris, East End’s Creative Director, says, “Instead of looking through cookbooks and going out to search for all the ingredients, I do the opposite: I visit famers markets or the co-op to see what’s seasonal and then build my meals off of that.”
2. Grow your own! Nothing tastes better than a carrot grown in your own backyard. Come to the Winter Park Urban Farm’s free Work and Learns on the second Thursday of the month to find out how to get started. Don’t have enough space? Join a community garden, or as East End’s Community Manager, Heather Grove, suggests, “Plant in pots, bags, or anything that you can drill drainage holes in.”
3. Freeze your favorite foods to have all year long. Not only can produce be pricey out of season, but it’s not as nutritious neither. Fruits and veggies lose lots of nutrients when they are picked green, shipped across the country, and gassed to artificially ripen. So, spend a night in the kitchen with some of your favorite foods and can or freeze away!
4. Friend a Farmer. There isn’t a better way to get to know our local growers than to visit or volunteer at a farm. Look out for an East End farm tour coming this spring! From U-pick farms to the Apopka Greenhouse, there are plenty of opportunities to get your hands in the dirt, and to learn from our wise crop of farmers.
5. Trade goods with your neighbors. If you have a friend with a herb garden and you have a bumper crop of collards, it’s an easy way for both of you to get something yummy. Gabby Lothrop, East End Market’s Director, trades her hens’ eggs for her neighbor’s extra veggies.
6. Get experimental in the kitchen! Start with the basics, and a really good cookbook. The new Field to Feast cook book is Florida-food-focused and great for beginning cooks. As you pick up new skills, Gabby advises, “Don’t give up your favorite recipes just because you can’t make them 100% local. You don’t want to lose the pleasure you get from enjoying food – that is fundamental. Instead, include as many local ingredients as you can and enjoy it! Over time, you’ll get to know what’s readily available and when, and you’ll find that you can make some substitutions to include more local food.”
7. Eat at restaurants that use local ingredients. From Dandelion Communitea Cafe to the Ravenous Pig, there is a range of restaurants that source locally. When you think about supporting these restaurants, remember the local businesses on wheels too, like Big Wheel Provisions. Stay tuned for our local dining guide, which we’ll post in the coming weeks.
8. Join the movement! Befriend more foodies with Slow Food Orlando and attend Organic Growers meetings with Simple Living Institute. By joining either of these groups, you’ll learn lots from each other!
9. Have a local potluck with friends and family! Emma says, “it’s a great way to sample a wide array of cooking styles and ingredients in a cozy atmosphere,” and to show off those great new recipes you’ve picked up!
10. Share tips with your friends! As you discover new ways to simplify eating locally, please share your thoughts in the comment box below. Keep an eye out for more posts over the next couple weeks in our “Market Minute” series too!