Archive for the ‘farmer’s market’ Tag

Carrot Time   Leave a comment

As far as snack time goes, today was officially the first day of winter. Over a year ago I overcame my cracker “addiction” to switch to fruit and vegetable snacks as part of my pre-pre pregnancy prep, and since I only eat what I can get at the farmer’s market that means carrots in the winter. ( When I cracked open my container of carrots this afternoon “U Can’t Touch This” popped into my head, but I can’t write out the tune, so I put it in the title instead.)

We’re lucky here in the Sacramento area to have several year-round farmer’s markets so that we can always eat seasonally locally. Not everything at the market is organic, but much is at least pesticide-free (the difference is that they haven’t gone through expense of certification or that they don’t follow other organic practices). I generally figure that even if they do use pesticides, smaller farmers probably use less than big monoculture farms. As a result, I focus more on eating local, rather than organic. In California the vendors at the farmer’s markets have to be from within the state, but stuff from southern CA is not exactly local to Sacramento. (That doesn’t stop us from buying the avocados, though). Most of the vendors at our market really are local and come from our county or a neighboring county. From the Delta to the Sierras that means multiple climate zones and growing seasons. So after tomatoes are done in the Delta, farmers in the Sierras still have several weeks of production. Thankfully that is true, because otherwise carrot snack season would have begun in early fall.

So I’ll have a few carrots (thin ones cut shorter, not “baby” carrots; scrubbed but not peeled to save time and maximize nutrients) every weekday from now until late spring. Then I will avoid carrots for a few months while feasting on snow peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers. As part of my afternoon snack I also make myself eat fruit, which varies similarly. It’ll really be winter for my stomach when there are no more apples. Then I’ll have oranges/mandarins/etc and kiwis. Long after the time that I am thoroughly sick of anything orange-y or kiwi-esque, spring will bring cherries. That’s the light at the end of the orange tunnel. Cherries, and then apricots, plums, and nectarines. Heaven must have year round stone fruits. 🙂

Conscious Kitchen Challenge, Shopping   5 comments

One of the blogs that I read regularly, Ask An Organic Mom, is doing a conscious kitchen challenge to promote her new book. I’m taking the challenge and posting my results here. The first week was a self-exam, the second is the shopping challenge. I haven’t read her book, so the challenge is limited to what she posted in her blog.

Farmer’s Market: I’ve been making weekly farmer’s market trips since grad school (2004). I love going to the farmer’s market. I’m lucky to live in California’s Central Valley where I can go to a year-round farmer’s market, and where I can eat “local” seasonal produce all year long. I put local in quotes because not everything is within the 100-mile radius that is generally considered to be the definition of local food. For example, our avocados come from southern California, something like 400 miles away. We buy our salad fixings, snack vegetables (except my husband’s packaged baby carrots), dinner vegetables, and fruit (except my husband’s bananas) at the market. We also buy olive oil, cheese, bagels, bread, muffins, flowers, honey, nuts, and sometimes eggs and olive oil at the market. As of last week a new vendor came to our market selling meet from organic range grazed cattle as well. My failing in my farmer’s market shopping is that I don’t ask enough questions. My challenge: I need to start asking what kind of pest management the farmers use, and I need to ask our bread vendor if the muffins and pastries are wrapped in vinyl or non-vinyl plastic wrap.

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm: I had wanted to participate in a CSA since I first heard about the concept in college. A CSA is a farm that sells memberships and then provides a box of produce weekly to the members. Some CSAs also require members to work a few hours on the farm or with distribution. A couple of years ago I got my chance when we split the membership and the weekly box with my sister-in-law. We got swamped by the amount of food and couldn’t keep up (a share is for 4 people, and there were only 3 of us). I have never thrown away so much food in my life. I really struggled with not being in control of the contents of my fridge and not being able to control quantity. You don’t know in advance what or how much is going to be in the box each week, and that can make menu planning a challenge. In our case I make our menus on Friday or Saturday, go to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning, and go to the grocery store on Sunday; but our CSA box was delivered on Tuesday. Also, that variety of foods could include large amounts of food that we didn’t like and small amounts of food that we love. We maintained our membership for a couple of quarters, and then the three of us threw in the towel. We just couldn’t make it work. It was nice getting the weekly newsletter, and really feeling connected to the source of our food, but the cons outweighed the pros for us.

Farm Stands: There aren’t any real farm stands within a reasonable regular driving radius, so I consider this not applicable.

My Own Garden: Oh I dream. I don’t have a good excuse though. One of the reasons I rented the duplex where I currently live is because of the yard and the planters in the back yard. Then I moved in and discovered how much trash is in the planters and any thoughts of growing food in them went out the window. A couple of years ago I started growing a few herbs in pots, but it’s been slow going. I am currently planting new annual herbs, and am thinking about getting a couple more pots to expand. Oh, we also have a pot where we are growing sunchokes, but the harvest was miniscule last year. I do dream about having my own garden, especially an herb garden because my mother spoiled me silly with the best herb garden in the world at our old house. (Thanks mom!) My challenge: Expand our container gardening to include more of the things that are not easy to get at the farmer’s market.

Grocery Store: I shop at Whole Foods, my husband shops at Raleys. He likes to do his own shopping for his lunches and other food that he takes to work, and he prefers to do that at the grocery store down the street. Since meeting me he has been corrupted and now does much of his shopping in the natural food aisle. I shop at Whole Foods even though it is not nearby because I want an entire grocery store, not an aisle. Whole Foods is okay, but it is easy to get complacent and forget that the company practices the same predatory contracting as other grocery stores, and that they sell a lot of stuff that doesn’t meet my objectives.  My challenge: Read EVERY label for ingredients, nutrition, and origin.

Posted April 7, 2010 by mayakey in food, shopping

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Why Do I Buy Organic?   Leave a comment

A few months ago a study came out saying that organic food was not more nutritious than conventionally raised food. The tenor of the news blurbs and discussions that I saw was along the lines of “there is no benefit to eating organic” and even going so far as to suggest that this one study was going to collapse the organic market. My husband and I had similar reactions when we first heard about the ruckus: “there are other benefits to organic, you know”. Actually, my first reaction was an utter lack of reaction because over the years there have been many studies done on the subject with varying results, so whoop-de-do here’s another study in the same inconclusive line. What irritated me was how it seemed that this complex decision was being boiled down to one facet and then blown way out of proportion.

Why does anyone buy organic? It varies, of course, by the person. For me, first and foremost it is an environmental decision. Every item I purchase that was raised organically instead of conventionally eliminates that amount of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers released into the environment. In fact, my biggest commitment to buying organic is not actually food, but cotton. I’ve seen statistics indicating that cotton is the single crop with the highest pesticide usage in the world. So every item in my closet fits into one of three categories: new organic fabric (with minimal processing and eco-dyes since I don’t want toxic dyes, formaldehyde, or fire retardants on my clothing either), second-hand conventional fabric, or grandfathered items (I am my father’s daughter, I admit to having clothing dating back to high school and college before I went organic). I simply will not purchase something made from conventionally raised cotton for my house, including towels, sheets, etc. I have also reached the point where it is absolutely painful to purchase something as a gift for someone else that is not organic cotton.

My second reason for buying organic is personal exposure. I purchase organic food to minimize the potential for exposure to pesticide residue in my food. Even if the amount of pesticide residue on a single item is negligible, I believe in the Precautionary Principle, and I am concerned about the cumulative effects of consuming a negligible amount of pesticide on every item in my diet. I don’t have the Environmental Working Group’s “clean” and “dirty” lists memorized any more, and I think that the list is different than when I last looked at it several years ago anyway. I only buy waxed cucumbers, berries and stone fruits, and “rough textured” foods organic if I can find them. Since we do all of our produce shopping at the farmer’s market, I don’t have many certified organic options. There are a handful of farmers that are certified organic at my farmer’s market, but there are many more that simply put “no pesticides” on the pricing signs. I’m fine with that. Some of the farmers use integrated pest management, which I consider to be perfectly acceptable. In general, at the farmer’s market if two vendors have the same item but one says “no pesticides” then that is the one I will buy. I don’t worry too much about it since I figure even if the farmers are using pesticides, small farms probably use a lot less pesticides than industrial farms.

For me the nutrition aspect is sort of a distant third. I say sort of because in my mind, higher nutrient content is associated with small local farms, not specifically organic farms. I’m sure that industrial organic fields produce food that is statistically nutritionally identical to food produced in conventional industrial fields. But when you can harvest something at the peak of freshness from your backyard, or pick it up at a farmer’s market, I would think you are getting a more nutritious item than if you bought it at a grocery store where it was harvested before fully ripening. It also makes sense to me that using more natural methods of restoring nutrients to the soil, rather than just applying synthetic fertilizers and mining the soil, results in better quality produce.

Perception is so Subjective   Leave a comment

Our farmer’s market moved this weekend. After something like 23 years in the same spot (back corner of a mall parking lot), they moved to the parking lot at the LightRail stop down the road. The corner of the mall parking lot was the very back corner, behind the compound for the Sears delivery vans, behind the Sears Auto Center, and with nothing near by. Since you have to walk past the delivery vans to get into the mall, no one parked there. It was a great big empty parking lot, but on Saturday mornings a little farmer’s market would sprout and bring life to the area. I’ve never counted how many slots the market had for vendors, but measured out in Google Earth it was 300 feet long with two rows of vendors. It is one of the biggest farmer’s markets in the county. The point is, it looked small in that big barren parking lot. As we would drive down the road circling the mall we would see this huge parking area with two strips of canopies. During summer the parking spaces within a couple hundred feet were full, but beyond that was more empty parking lot surrounding the market, giving it this small, forlorn atmosphere. This weekend as I walked into the market in the Light Rail parking lot I was astonished by how much larger and more vibrant it appeared. The Light Rail parking lot is smaller with two major roads bordering it, and it has planters with trees sprinkled among the parking spots.  The background noise of the traffic, the visual breaks caused by the trees, and the lack of a barren asphalt ring around the market made it appear to be much more than even the previous week. It is amazing how our perception of something changes based on visual cues unrelated the the object at hand. Change the setting without changing the object, and you still perceive and experience the object as if you had changed it.

Another case of what affects our perspective came to me during my phone conversation with my mother when we talked about my attempts at growing houseplants. I have two poinsettias from Christmas of 2007 that I am experimenting with to see if I can keep them growing. I’m not planning on making the bloom, just grow. Due to an unfortunate couple of days outside during an early freeze in fall of 2008, they almost died and I have spent the last year and a half nursing them back to full growth. One of them is leggy with large beautiful dark green leaves at the end of the branches, the other is small with small light green leaves growing all along the branches. I keep thinking that I’ll give up on the leggy one, even if it has the nicer leaves, just because it is leggy. In the US we are conditioned to think of lush growth when we think of poinsettias, despite the fact that they do not naturally have lush growth all along the branches. My leggy poinsettia looks natural, and that is the problem. I think it is kind of ugly, but it looks how it is supposed to look. My perception of the plant is influenced by my social conditioning, even though I have seen natural poinsettias before and know what the full grown plant looks like. Is it fair to the plant? No. So I keep the plant, trying to work my way through this dilemma of perceiving the unnatural and forced as beautiful, and natural as ugly.

Posted March 8, 2010 by mayakey in musings

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