After I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle and watched Food Inc., my vision on food was forever changed. My initial impulse was to sell everything, buy a farm, get some chickens, goats, perhaps a cow, and live off the land. I would be in community with local farmers and we would share our produce while selling our harvest at the local market. And angels and butterflies danced in my head.
Once my inspired zeal came down to a manageable level I decided to logically consider what my family could realistically do as an alternate to my agrarian fantasy. Because truth be told, farming is hard work. My great-grandparents were farmers and my mom would often tell me stories of their early mornings and hard labors. I talked with a local farmer here in Memphis not too long ago, sharing with him my future dreams of owning and working my own farm when my kids grow up. He said, “Well, hold on and maybe think about starting that dream sooner because you are going to need those kids to help.” Hmmm. Made sense. Maybe we’ll just get a chicken coop and keep working on our garden.
You do not have to own a farm to live off the land. And you do not have to be a farmer to share and eat sustainable food. This is why I love going to our local farmers market. I know where my food is coming from, I meet the actual people who grow my food, and I support my local farmers when I purchase what they grow.
I don’t solely shop the farmers market mostly to save on costs, but also because I can’t always make it to the market every week. So, in my menu planning I try and see what is in season, check the market when I can to buy what I need for meals, and then go to the vendors to make my purchase. I am not a part of a CSA currently, but I may consider it at some point.
If you want to live a little bit more off of the land and less off of convenience foods then here are a few places to begin:
- Find out what is in season. Sustainabletable.org has a super easy tool for you to see what fruits and vegetables are currently in season in your state. Just plug in your state, the season (usually already imported) and click “Go.”
- Find your local farmers market. Ask around or Google where your local market is, when it is open, and what vendors will be there.
- Find recipes. This is where Pinterest, food blogs, and FOOD Network come in handy. Once I see what is in season and what is available at the farmer’s market, I get creative and find some ways to make dishes that incorporate produce that is in season. It’s fun! Here are a couple that I plan to make this week:
Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie. We are going strawberry picking Monday, so I plan to bake this treat that afternoon when we return home. I hope to find some rhubarb at the market tomorrow morning. I must confess that I will not be making my own crust. Store-bought works for me!
Chicken and Collards Pilau. Organic chicken is $4.99 a lb. at Kroger this week, so I bought some to go with this dish. I hope to get some greens at the market tomorrow.
Not everything I cook is this fancy or locally grown, but it is nice to incorporate fun dishes like these while supporting our local farms. And one of the biggest takeaways for me is to learn alongside my children about God’s creation, agriculture, hard work, eating healthy, and cooking sustainable food.
Here is a pic of a field trip we took this past Wednesday to ROOTS Memphis Farm Academy, which is a non-profit farming training program. In this pic, Mary who instructs the farmers-in-training, shows the kids the different rows of onions, garlic, lettuce, and other greens.
So you really don’t have to be a farmer to appreciate living off the land. Our farmers are dependent upon the land, so when we support the land we are supporting them and they are supporting us by providing us with sustainable food. It is a beautiful cycle of sharing in the Lord’s harvest.