Tips for Sourcing Local Food

For the last 10 years, I’ve been working on sourcing more and more of my food locally. I had the lucky advantage of living with a farmer friend the first year I moved to Pennsylvania, which helped me get to know the farming community here a lot faster. Before that, when I lived in Brooklyn and NYC, it was years of many small changes and attempts.

Sourcing my food from local farmers—most of them now friends—is rewarding on every level. 

  • The food is more beautiful and tastes better than what I find in the grocery store, which helps me enjoy cooking more. 
  • The food has traveled less distance, so it stays fresher longer (no more slimy salad greens!) and reduces the use of nonrenewable fuels
  • There are no middlemen, so disruptions in the food supply like we’ve seen with COVID-19 aren’t an issue. I know where my food comes from—I have seen the fields. That feels good. 
  • What feels really, really good is being friends with my farmers. I love cooking a roast and thanking Clara & Jeremy before we tuck in. I like tossing a salad and thinking of Emma and her crew washing the greens. Slicing through a dense loaf of bread is even lovelier knowing that our friend Natalie kneaded the dough. 

Food is medicine. Life is relationship. Food from local farms = health + relationship. Yes, please.

Picking up some early spring greens at the farmstand at Pan’s Forest in Quakertown, PA

Here are a few tips to help you if you’re getting started on the journey:

1. The easiest and most obvious: visit a farmer’s market. There is likely more than one in your area. Go, browse, enjoy, and *talk* to the farmers! Ask where they are located and if they sell their products outside of the farmer’s market location and hours (they probably do). Personally, I prefer the flexibility and fun of buying directly on farms (like picking up greens at the cute farmstand @pansforest or veggies @kneehighfarm). CSA is a fabulous option. 

 2. See if your area has a directory of local farms. In the Lehigh Valley, we are lucky to have @BFBLGLV (buylocalglv.org). Google “farm directory” and a USDA search engine comes up. Do a little searching. 

 3. Don’t stress about labels and certifications if you are buying directly from small, local farms. I encourage you to ask questions about a farm’s practices if you’re comfortable with that, but don’t stress about it. It’s a big step just to move from grocery store shopping to more direct sourcing from farms, so don’t fuss about the details initially. Which brings me to my next point… 

4. Be patient. Sourcing and eating locally is a mindset shift more than anything else. I had to get used to shopping at less convenient times, planning ahead, cooking more at home, and other changes—all enjoyable and worthwhile, but changes. Changing takes time. I’m still learning. Enjoy the process and forgive yourself if you missed the weekly market or didn’t plan enough in advance to make the farm pick-up. 

5. Make friends with farmers. They want to sell you their product and be in relationship with you. They want to support your health and your family. Talk to them; see if they want volunteers. Don’t be shy!

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