Food Bring Me Home

It was another hot day today. Everyone kept talking about it and yet the heat did not bother me. My training must be making me immune to hot temperatures. I have enjoyed a relaxing weekend with family, filled with great meals and conversation. I wondered how I could top it all off.

Acton-Boxborough Farmers Market in Acton, MA
Acton-Boxborough Farmers Market in Acton, MA

My friend Jenn started the Acton-Boxborough Farmers Market in Acton Ma. A few months ago I had helped her work on the farmers market web site and being Sunday and in the area, I had the perfect opportunity to check it out while also picking up some nice seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Farmers markets are great for what they allow you to do. They give you the opportunity to pick up fresh local food at a fair price while helping support the local economy. One thing that struck me about this particular market was the willingness of people to provide free samples of food.

Acton-Boxborough Farmers Market in Acton, MA
Acton-Boxborough Farmers Market in Acton, MA

The vegetables in particular were diverse and some unknown to me. I often try new foods on recommendation, but allowing me to taste the food allowed me to evaluate it’s freshness as well as gain a better appreciation for what it was, how it tastes and how I might cook it. Everyone was more than willing to provide simple cooking suggestions as well as full fledged recipes. The community feel and friendly atmosphere are hard to come by at the mega-grocery store and a welcomed change.

Live music, artisans and friendly volunteers all contributed to a fun environment.

Acton-Boxborough Farmers Market in Acton, MA
Acton-Boxborough Farmers Market in Acton, MA

Not wanting to end my culinary tour and trip down memory lane, I also stopped off at Westward Orchards in my hometown of Harvard, Ma. on my way back to the city.

The farm is owned and run by the Green family, the family of one of my High School classmates Stephanie. As I pulled in, the sign for fresh peaches called my name; I parked my car and headed to the farm stand building.  I grabbed a bag of peaches and walked around the store. I was greeted by her parents, then almost not recognizing her, was greeted with a cheerful hello. It’s amazing how after years (11 in this case) you can pick up some things in life with ease almost as if no time had passed at all. I learned of her recent engagement, talked about business, my new found love for food and cooking, old friends and generally just caught up. Noticing the bag of peaches in hand, she assured me that they were delicious and that I would be hooked. I would definitely be back, and back in less than 11 years for sure. I had no doubt she was right.

Westward Orchards of Harvard, MA
Westward Orchards of Harvard, MA

Though I longed for life in the city when I grew up, this weekend served as a reminder of how lucky I was to grow up where I did. Access to local fruits and vegetables and those who produce it is to some extent a luxury few have. The “apple town” I once scoffed at isn’t so bad after all. Don’t get me wrong though as  I do enjoy living in the city and what it has to offer, but the quaint contrast of small-town life is fun to partake in when given the opportunity.

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Supporting Your Local Farmer Through CSAs

Be A Local Here, Buy Locally Grown
Be A Local Here, Buy Locally Grown

I was about to leave work now when I received an email from Chestnut Farms, a local farm in Massachusetts, welcoming me into their meat CSA. This is really exciting news. I learned about them and their meat CSA a few weeks ago at lunch with my friend Erik. He is part of the program and after hearing about it I knew I wanted to join.

CSAs as they are referred to stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The idea is that members contribute contribute to a share of a farming program in return for locally grown meat and/or vegetables depending on the farm. It’s great both farmers and consumers as it it allows for both to connect. Farmers also get the added benefit of a guaranteed demand for their livestock or produce while consumers gain a better awareness of where their food comes from in addition to a fresher and healthier product. A sustainable farm shares a limited amount of shares as the farm must be able to sustain it’s livestock or vegetables by utilizing the land that they have instead of buying feed or chemical fertilizer from outside sources. This requires the changing of grazing areas and the rotation of crops on a regular basis, just as nature intended.

Most of us buy our meat from the supermarket or butcher. It comes wrapped in a package and is practically indistinguishable from its live form, often treated with chemicals or dyes to make it look fresh. While I’ll be picking my meat up at a distribution site once a month, the farm encourages share members to visit and see where their food comes from. I like the idea that I can drive to the farm, see how the animals are treated and cared for. I k now I will feel confident that the food I will be eating is as healthy as it can be and that the animals have been treated and slaughtered humanely.

I signed up for the lowest share to start which provides me with 10 pounds of meat a month consisting of pork, beef, chicken, turkey and lamb. I’m really excited about getting meat from a local farm that is grown without the use of hormones or other artificial means.  The commitment for each share lasts 6 months and is available for pick-up at many different locations in surrounding towns; I chose a pick-up site in the town that I grew up in.

At the moment I see three drawbacks of joining a program like this. The first and obvious one is price. It does cost a bit more to buy the meat through the CSA than at the supermarket, but when I think about about what I am getting I am ok with this. Secondly, I have to pick it up at a certain time and place each month whether I need it or not. This means that I have to keep that day free for my pickup or ask my parents to help me out if they are around. It also means that I could run out of meat and have to buy it at the supermarket anyway or that I could have leftover meat which I have to store in my freezer. The other thing which is not really a drawback but a change is the lack of choice in meat. Depending on the time of year and the availability on the farm, my meat share contents will change each month. This actually makes sense and is more natural as not all meat is “in season” all year round. Being able to eat meat or pork any day of the year is only a modern phenomenon which draws gasps of disbelief when pointed out. My share starts in June and I’ll provide updates as I make my pickups

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