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Working With Local Produce

Around North America, there is a resurgence of interest in harvesting, preserving and cooking with local food. With local farmer’s markets, backyard chickens, and victory gardens making a comeback, people are more aware of issues surrounding the sustainability of their food choices.

Abundance
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Books such as “The 100 Mile Diet” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” have pushed an alternate, and often guerilla, way of life into the mainstream. As Walmart and the other grocery chains fight to get the best branding for their organic products, those who were into organic, are now into local. The big brands don’t do local – it doesn’t fit with their business model – or with their suppliers’ models either for that matter. The tide is turning, the past fifty years have put more money into the pockets of big corporations, running massive scale farms, shipping businesses and supermarket chains, and now a small, but educated part of society is demanding exactly what the mega-corporations can’t produce.

The nature of niche food products is that you can taste the difference between growers or producers, there are a selection of varieties of carrots available, not just the ones from California that have been in cold storage for months. Just last weekend we sold carrots, beets and peas, all of a size larger and juicier than any of the other producers, this is a combination of early planting under row covers, and selecting seed varieties that are suitable for early harvest.

In Castlegar, we’re blessed with a beautiful growing season with plenty of time to grow stone fruits, apples, grapes, a multitude of vegetables and grains, however most people only know how to cook and work with tomatoes, potatoes and carrots, while vegetables that are possibly better suited to growing as early or late crops are overlooked as too difficult to cook. As a family, we are attempting to get the most out of our garden, not just in the heat of summer when the tomatoes are literally bursting from the vines, but in the spring and even in the fall, past the winter squash and pumpkins. This takes planning and working with different seeds and techniques, we’ve become adept at using row covers, but next spring, well probably go one step further and build a hoop green house with solar heat gain components to extend the season either way. We are aiming to become experienced at growing and preserving the foods that can be harvested in Castlegar, and learning from and teaching others skills that reduce our dependence on large scale agriculture.

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Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.