Talk Dirty to Me: On Eating Local, Heirlooms and CSAs
Eating local and organic is my New Year’s resolution. How do I get started? Are there even local products available this time of year? -Amber, Midtown KC
I cannot think of a better New Year’s resolution. Eating locally & organically produced food has such a vastly positive effect on the environment, one’s personal health, and the health of our economies & communities at large. Lucky for Amber, Kansas City has a thriving local food scene full of eco-conscious farmers and artisans eager to provide an alternative to industrial agriculture & corporate food. Right off the bat I’d recommend joining the Kansas City Food Circle (www.kcfoodcircle.org) – a non-profit organization that connects conscious eaters with local growers using sustainable practices. Get a hold of their “producers directory” – a listing of over 200 farms with product & contact info. Products like grass-fed meats, eggs, and cheese are usually available yearround and many farmers have “drop-offs” in the City once or twice a month even when Farmers’ Markets are not in session. Most Farmer’s Markets run May through October, but the BADSEED Farmers’ Market at 1909 McGee in downtown KC (owned & operated by yours truly) has a delightful Winter Market that runs every Friday, 4-8 PM, through the end of February. Winter products include sweet potatoes, limited storage crops & winter greens, gourmet mushrooms, local flour & oats, grass-fed meats, free-range eggs, wholesome breads & baked goods, raw honey, artisan cheese, and micro-roasted organic coffee. The toughest times of the year to get a smorgasbord of local & organic products (primarily produce) will be January thru April. Take advantage of the before-mentioned “off-season” offerings. Once the growing season gears-up in May, you’ll be more than ready to indulge in the bountiful fruits of the spring.
The seasonal harvest is at its best straight from the farmers’ hands. Staying out of the supermarket and buying direct from the grower is key to getting the freshest, organic fruits & vegetables. Kansas City has a Farmers’ Market every day of the week during the regular season so it shouldn’t be too hard to get in touch with your farmers. Not all Farmers’ Markets encourage organic practices, but some do. The Brookside Community Market off 63rd street is the longest standing organic market in town and is definitely worth visiting on Saturday mornings (mid April thru November). The before-mentioned BADSEED is the funkiest market in town and sure to make for one heck of a Friday night outing (May thru the end of February). Another organicallyminded market worth mentioning is the Waldo Farmers’ Market on Wednesday nights (May thru October). Although smaller, this neighborhood market is charming and has some delicious offerings from a dedicated group of growers. Joining a “Community Supported Agriculture” program is another great way to access good food. A CSA is a union between a farmer and an eater. The eater pays up-front for a weekly share in the farm’s bounty. The eater assumes the risks and rewards of small-scale farming. If the weather is bad and crops suffer, this will be reflected in the weekly shares. When the season is good and there are bumper crops, shares will be large (sometimes GIGANTIC!) and the eater will rejoice in mountains of food. This unique relationship keeps people connected to the land, the hands that grow the food, and the many whims of Mother Nature. CSA programs for specific farms will be listed in the KC Food Circle’s “producer’s directory” or on their website. Fair Share Farm (www.fairsharefarm.com) in Kearney, MO and Karbaumer Farm (www.karbaumerfarm.com) in Platte City, MO are two CSA farms worth mentioning. They do great work and provide delicious food along the way!
As a last resort, supermarkets will carry some local products. While larger corporate markets like Whole Foods advertise “local” products, what few they may carry are often grown regionally, sometimes more than 400 miles away. They are not as fresh, the prices are jacked-up, and the experience of looking the farmer in the eye while exchanging kind words is all but lost. While shopping at supermarkets (or anywhere for that matter) keep in mind that “local” does not mean “organic”. If you are seeking organically-grown foods, look for a USDA organic label or talk to the grower directly about their practices. Several smaller, independently-owned health-food markets make a real effort to source local products.
Nature’s Own in midtown KC at 43rd and Main is a quaint neighborhood joint that provides a very pleasant experience. Howard’s Organic Fare & Vegetable Patch at 21st and Campbell is a 24 hour access, members-only market that carries all local products! While there are many people working to grow good food and keep your refrigerator full, you too can do just that! Home gardens are an essential ingredient to locally-sourced sustenance. You’ll be amazed at how much food can grow in a very small space, whether it’s your backyard, front yard, balcony, or community garden down the street. For gardening support, inspiration, and free workshops become a member of the Kansas City Community Gardens (www.kccg.org) – a non-profit that has aided in the growth of food gardens for nearly 30 years!!
[Editor’s Note: Follow our “Get Real Resolution” challenge for more ideas and tips to keep you on the right path!]
I am ripping up my front yard and planting a giant garden this year! I want to grow heirlooms and would like to source non GMO organic seeds. Who should I buy from? -Karen, KCMO
Thankfully, there are many righteous seed companies out there. When I say “righteous”, I am referring to companies that offer an incredible selection of untreated or certified organic seeds that are not owned by the agri-giant known as Monsanto. These companies also take great measures to test their seed stock for contamination from GMO’s. As a consumer, I can feel confident when I grow their seeds and eat the food year after year. As a commercial grower, I order primarily from two companies. The first is a local gem known as Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com) in Mansfield, MO. These seed crusaders travel the world over for rare and exotic varieties while also celebrating old standards (the seeds that have set the stage for our culinary heritage here in the USA). All of their seeds are untreated and open-pollinated so you can confidently save your own seeds. Be sure to get on their mailing list so that you will receive one of their stunning seed catalogs…simply a work of art! The other company we order seeds from is Fedco (www.fedcoseeds.com), a seed cooperative in Maine. Fedco offers a diverse selection of both hybrids and heirlooms for the serious home gardener and market grower. They have an INCREDIBLE bulk discount. The more you order the more you save, so go in with friends!
Being a true cooperative, I receive dividend checks each year. Another bonus! Other companies worth mentioning are Seed Saver’s Exchange (www.seedsavers.org) and Seeds From Italy (www.growitalian.com).
I am new to cooking fresh seasonal foods. I will be joining a CSA this year and would like a good recipe resource for the many vegetables coming my way. Any suggestions? -Anabelle, Merriam, KS
There are loads of great (farm to table) cookbooks out there and a plethora of on-line resources. Because cooking seasonal, whole foods (from a mystery bag of veggies no less!) is intimidating enough to the newcomer, I don’t want to overwhelm you with options. The on-line recipe resource I use over and over again, more than anything else is a recipe blog by Elise Bauer called Simply Recipes (www.simplyrecipes.com).
Her recipes are always well-crafted, welltested, and (simply) delicious. She tends to use a good deal of the same vegetables I grow in my two-acre market garden and she will surely cover the many veggies you’ll receive in your weekly share. You can search recipes by “type” so if you click “vegetables” on the sidebar a stream of recipes come-up listed in alphabetical order starting with asparagus and ending with zucchini. I highly suggest the Creamy Sweet Potato Soup, Corn Chowder, & Turnip Gratin.
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