Monday, June 16, 2008

Local Food Challenge

Earlier this year my family made the decision that we would try to eat more locally. This would include buying more locally grown or raised meat and vegetables, eating in restaurants that bring in local foods and buying locally from the grocery stores if that was possible. Local for us is defined by any meat or vegetable that is brought in to our area from a distance of no further than 250 miles away. I felt that number would keep us away from the produce one finds all year long at the local discount and grocery stores that comes from the warmer states out west. But, it would give us access to the fruits and vegetables from the southern region of the U.S. to a point. That distance number will come down as we get better at this. It would also force us to do several things. One, grow and preserve some of our own food. Two, frequent restaurants that bring in foods that do not come from thousands of miles away. And three, and you will probably snicker at this, cook at home more. More about this later....

I felt this was an important undertaking for myself and my two sons and one that others might enjoy reading about...even possibly getting on the local bandwagon. We'll blog our successes and failures here for you to read about. So, here goes....

Late spring and early summer are better times of the year to get a family started on eating locally. Winter time would be difficult if we weren't prepared by growing vegetables that will keep over winter. More about that as the season progresses. Back to the in the southeast spring comes early and with that comes early vegetables. Lettuces, cabbage, cauliflower (as pictured of Rainbow Hill's display this past Sunday at the Chattanooga Market), snow peas, radishes, new potatoes, green beans, zucchini and squash are now becoming plentiful. Salads are a staple at every dinner that we are managing to eat at home. We're on the road a lot right now with baseball games so planning ahead and taking it with us is working right now. Eating before or after a game at home is an option too. It has been tricky finding any restaurant that does not truck in their produce and meat from huge distribution centers thousands of miles away, but we do have a couple local restaurants that give a good selection of homemade and homegrown dishes on their menus.
We are very late getting our vegetable gardens in this year. A very busy wholesale and retail spring season here at Possum Creek pushed off a lot of work that should have gotten done earlier but just didn't. Pat is frantically trying to get the big "canning and freezing" garden installed at her family homestead. Most if not all the vegetable starts came from seed that she started over the winter and early spring. Most if not all the vegetables will be organically grown as well. Another huge plus for the families. Plans are that both families will come together to keep the garden watered and semi-weed free. Harvesting and preserving will be our jobs later this summer when the bounty comes in. Preparation here at home began with a purchase of a deep freezer for the basement. Vegetables that benefit from freezing will go in there as will the half of a steer we are currently waiting to grow larger and are expecting in a few more weeks. The steer is being raised on pasture only in Georgia. Two pluses are the steer is not being fed by-products, antibiotics and other harmful additions to its diet. The other plus is the steer is just a few miles away from us which falls into our local "mileage" specification. Score points for our team!
We didn't come by this decision lightly. After reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver at least three times in the past year we felt this was an important move for our family. I know you all read the newspaper and watch CNN. Can you blame us for trying this?
In the weeks ahead I will blog how things are going and each Wednesday I will be sharing some of the recipes we have come across and how they added to our challenge. And what has been working for us as a family. We would love to hear comments from you all and see who else is locally eating this summer. But for now....back to the garden.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Herb of the Week at the Chattanooga Market

We have been enjoying getting reacquainted with friends, customers and new gardeners over the past several weeks at the Chattanooga Market. While the weather has been more wet than dry (no complaints here, though) sales of organically grown potted herb plants have been extremely good. What that is telling Pat and I is that Chattanooga and the surrounding area are planting gardens like never before. Whether out of necessity or entertainment or whether it is just the cycle we're in, people are asking questions, buying plants and planting containers, raised beds, small and large gardens. Many are combining herbs with their vegetables or growing their herbs near the kitchen door and grill with the intent of using them not just looking at them.

Pat and I have enjoyed answering many questions about herbs. We are often seen with an herb book in one hand and a plant in the other as we try to answer vital questions. So, with that in mind, we would like to introduce something we did with much success in the fall of 2006. We would like to bring back the Herb of the Week to our booth at the Chattanooga Market. Each week we will highlight one particular species of herb by offering handouts featuring home care, craft and culinary uses for the herb. And as before, we will offer the highlighted Herb of the Week herb at a discount.

This coming Sunday, June 8th, Herb of the Week will be lavender. Lavender is very hardy to our area with a little help from you. Planting lavender that is hardy to zone 6-7 is the first step. Possum Creek only grows lavender that is hardy to our area so the search is done for you. Adding a mulch of white gravel around each plant ensures that the heat and humidity is thrown back to the foliage and not the roots that can succumb to fungal disease. Leave plenty of space between the plants that you will be growing. Yes, I said plants. How could you grow just one when there are so many to choose from? Lavender can be used in crafting and in culinary recipes as well.

So stop by our booth and pick up a couple of lavender plants and some growing and usage tips. Disclaimer: we will not be offering Herb of the Week specials on our website. You must purchase your plants from us at the Chattanooga Market.
See you Sunday!