Markets offering only local food could change how farmers grow. Here are some ways that may happen, and why it’s a good thing.
In the fall of 1980, one of my plant science classes visited a homestead in Harrisville, NH called Solar Survival. Leandre and Gretchen Poisson, the owners, gave us a tour of the farm.
We talked about self-sufficiency and being able to grow food all winter. One thing Leandre said that has stayed with me all these years was, “In our house, we don’t ask, What do we want for dinner? We ask, What can we have for dinner?” What was available came from solar pods and a root cellar full of food they’d grown in summer. Meals were genuinely local and seasonal.
A true, year-round, local market
There is a new all local, public market being built in Boston MA. Product must be grown, raised or fished in New England. Value added products, such as baked goods, are allowed to have ingredients from out of the area, but they must be produced in New England. The emphasis is on fresh food, though, not value added products.
When I read about this, I heard Leandre Poisson’s words loudly. What can you have for dinner? What’s available?
Inventory at the market will reflect the season. It will fluctuate and not be the predictable selection found in a conventional supermarket. In New England, there will be no mangoes or pineapples.
Aside from boosting the local economy and creating jobs, this new market will be an education for shoppers in what real local food is. Local food is seasonal food.
A change in growing and production
A year-round, local, fresh food market might re-frame how farmers grow. Season-extending greenhouses would add more months to production and income. More field space could be given over to fall crops to store and sell through winter, such as onions, potatoes, cabbage, carrots and winter squash.
Growers will get creative on how to maximize their produce. For instance, the article states a local orchard will make cider from their apples.
This is not a casual set up for growers. The 300 vendors who are applying must submit a rigorous business plan to assure year round availability of their product. This will get them thinking how to be more productive. To provide all year is different than selling at a market during the regular growing season. Growers will have to stretch to be part of this new market in Boston.
On a smaller scale
I have grown all my own food before. I canned it, froze it, dried it, or stored it in a cold room. Stocking up on rice and beans and eating only what I had put up, my grocery bill for staples (milk, eggs, cheese, oil) for the month of January recently was $50.
If you want to eat locally and seasonally out of your own garden, look into Leandre Poisson’s work in his book Solar Gardening.
All food was local a couple centuries ago. Farming was about subsistence, and sharing and bartering with neighbors. There were no food stores!
I hope this new market is a success and that it inspires other markets, new and existing, to offer truly local and seasonal food.