Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Buy Locally or Grow Your Own

One of the big catchphrases lately is ‘Think globally, buy locally’. Think about the ecology of the entire planet, buy locally made products and produce. This time of year, it is much easier to do for many of us. In large areas of the US, it is too cold to grow much of anything during the winter. Locally grown produce is coming into the markets now, and farmer’s markets have opened.

Farmer’s markets are wonderful places to see and buy the produce and products directly from the source. You can talk to the farmers, the bakers, the beekeepers and the jam makers. Somehow, everything tastes better when you know where it came from and how it was grown/created. You are also supporting the local economy. It is true that you are also supporting the local economy when you shop at any store, but most stores nowadays have their roots elsewhere. The profits go mostly out of town.

This morning, I was ‘shopping’ as locally as I could possibly get. We have wild black raspberries and blackberries on our property where we have our cabin. I went out berry picking before breakfast, and got about ¾ of a pint of blackberries, and a few late black raspberries. The raspberries here ripen the last couple weeks of June, followed by the blackberries the first couple weeks of July. I usually go out picking 3-4 times each year, depending on when we get to our cabin, getting between ½ and 1 pint each time.

The berries are smaller than those we buy at the store, and sometimes a little bitter. I get my arms all scratched from the thorns, and I usually get soaked with sweat, but the ‘hunter/gatherer mentality hits me every year, and out I go. It would be so much easier (and, I admit, tastier) just to buy berries, and I sometimes do, but these are MINE. I put my blood, sweat and tears into them, literally. I am providing for my family at the most direct level. Many of the blackberry vines were growing along the ground this year, so I am sure there are a lot of berries I didn’t get. My knee is too painful to squat down, but I got enough to fulfill my need. The insects and little critters out there are the winners from this.

People who grow their own produce get the same thrill. In my planter box at home, I am growing tomatoes, cukes and peppers for the first time in many years. I am thinking that next year, instead of veggies, I will grow a ‘tea garden’; with all kinds of flowers and herbs I can use for herbal tea (I do have some in my garden now).

There are plenty of ways to grow a garden without too much effort. Raised beds, or planter boxes make reaching the plants easier. They can be built at whatever height is easiest for you to reach, either from a chair, or standing. Container gardening gives you small, compact planting areas. The containers can be placed on a picnic table, where you can sit to tend them. I have seen advertised tomato plants and a few other varieties of plants that are grown in a hanging pot, and the plant hangs down from it. I don’t know much about these, but they look intriguing. Some herbs can be grown in pots on a windowsill, and can last all year. There are ergonomic tools that can make the task even easier.

Whether you like growing your own plants or not, do try to get to a farmer’s market. I always come away feeling like I had an adventure, and with some new item to try.

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