The local food movement is on fire, and farmers and innovative small businesses are making it easier than ever to feed your family without even setting foot in a box store or supermarket. (By staying out of places crammed with packaged foods, you'll be more likely to avoid toxic food additives.)
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture's Farming for the Future conference in State College, Pennsylvania, last week was a testament to the snowballing demand for organic. More than 2,000 farmers and foodies forged connections and sought advice on bringing healthy, sustainable food options directly to consumers, often with no middleman required.
Here are 5 unique ways to source local food without crossing the threshold of a supermarket.
You've probably heard of community-supported agriculture (CSA) shares, which a customer purchases to share in a farm's harvest before the growing season begins, and then receives fresh produce throughout the farmer's growing season. While this traditional CSA model remains popular throughout the country, it's not a good fit for everyone, particularly farm-food seekers who don't have a lot of extra cash available to pay up front costs, which can start in the hundreds of dollars.
The Rodale Institute, an organic research farm in Pennsylvania, is experimenting with a new, pay-as-you-go program called Agriculture-Supported Communities. People commit to purchasing a season's worth of produce, but pay in small weekly amounts, not one large lump sum.
CSAs aren't limited to produce anymore, either. More recently, offerings can include meat, eggs, honey, cheese, and even wine shares.
"People crave a regular reminder that they're supporting a farmer," Worldwatch Institute fellow Brian Halweil, editor of a local food magazine on Long Island, New York, called Edible East End, said at the PASA conference.
Gourmet greens in the supermarket can be costly, but you can likely find more nutritious (and free!) salad mixes in weed patches in your own backyard, according to backyard herbalists Faye Burch and Grace Lefever. For instance, lamb's-quarter is a versatile weed that can be eaten fresh or dried and ground. Cut young leaves through the summer until it flowers for a nutrition-packed (more so than spinach) and cost-free dinner green. This time of year, scout out winter cress and chickweed for wintertime greens. For some digital assistance in gathering edible weeds, check out the Wild Edibles Apps for smart phones.