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A Guide to Making You And Your Family Green Grocery Getters!
For many years I have noticed that it is getting harder and harder to feed my family quality food. It seems the prices in the grocery store are on a constant upswing while quality goes down. Our food, particularly produce is shipped from all over the world. Animals for meat are raised in often questionable conditions. Dairy products, particularly milk are loaded with growth hormones. Pink Slime abounds in meat products along with hydrogenated oils, fats, and salt. There have been in recent years mass recalls for e-coli, and salmonella, and the occasional mad cow disease outbreak. You are probably like me want to buy organic, or natural food to save you and your family from these horrors. But, unfortunately organic food products often have shady origins and are really expensive.
This led me on a quest to save money, and to eat and buy greener groceries. I tried many different groceries stores and realized that for the most part I was faced with the same problems. If the quality was good it was way too expensive for us, or if we could afford it was horrible quality. I just knew that there had to be a better way. When I was a kid there never seemed to be a problem with obtaining fresh produce, meat or even baked goods. I realized the difference was that my Mom, Aunt and Grannies only went to the grocery stores for mostly non food items during the warm months and only bought "food" in the winter from the grocery stores. They were, without knowing it, Green Grocery Getters, they were farm and garden shoppers.
My Mom and Aunt grew up during the depression and World War II when you had to think outside of the box to provide for you family. My Grandmothers were both raised during the first half of the 20th century on farms. For my grandmothers, food came from a farm not a grocery store. When the depression hit and World War II came along it was this sense that helped provide food for many. Gardens were planted, chickens and pigs raised in the backyard and bread was made at home. Women and children went to fields and picked wild berries, apples and other fruit and came home and canned it for use in the winter. Vegetables from the garden were also canned and saved for winter use as well. It was these steps that for many saved them from starvation during these hard times in our country. These habits continued to be a part of who they were and how they raised us food came from farms not grocery stores. I realized that somehow or the other I had gotten away from this ideal.
With this new found epiphany, I started to look around for local farms to help supplement my family larder. I realized pretty quickly that there were some important questions that I needed to ask first. The first thing you need to ask yourself is what type of produce and food are you looking for? Secondly, are you willing to work for the food your just purchase it outright and finally is there anything that you can provide for yourself. In my case I have access to a woman who raises goats and in exchange for helping her with milking and egg collecting I get 1 to 2 gallons of milk free a week. I also have access to a shared garden plot in which I can plant and share the bounty.
If you don't have access to these options or the time to commit you need to look for local farms. When looking for a farm to help support your Grocery Getting you have to find a farm that is truly local. If you have to drive a hundred miles round trip to purchase your goodies the savings may not be equal to what you spend in gas. If you live where there are no farms close by check out your local Farmers Market. Many times farmers come from near and far with their extra goodies on the weekend. You will still have the benefit of visiting the farm but without the added gas prices. The produce may cost a little bit more than going to the farm but should be cheaper and better quality than what you will get in the grocery store. I also recommend that if you are at the farmer's market to ask questions about where there produce comes from, if they are organic and to find out where they are located. The closer the farm is and the produce is to you the Greener the Grocery.
Another, good way to locate a farm is to visit the C.S.A website. The C.S.A is a network of farmers all over the country that have banded together to support each other and the community. When you visit a C.S.A farm you will either be able to just purchase what you want or you can buy "shares" which will allow you to receive a portion of the farms output as things mature. Many of these farms also offer more than just veggies, you can often purchase milk, eggs, cheese, bread etc. Another, great advantage to working with one of these farms is that if they can't provide you with a certain product they will be able to refer you to another local farm within the area that can help you out.
If you are looking for organic foods it is important to verify if they have been certified Organic by the State in which the farm is located. Let's face it we have all heard the stories on the news of some group saying that they are organic but in reality they are out there crop dusting with agent orange. Each state has a program and certain requirements that need to be met and maintained in order to be deemed organic. There are several ways to acquire this information one is through the C.S.A. database of farms, check with your local farm bureau or State Agriculture Department.
A good example of the above is LolliePoppa Farm of West Paris, Maine. This farm is almost one stop shopping and is what I would recommend as a role model for your own Green Grocery Getting. This farm has been deemed as Organic by the State Of Maine, is an active member of the C.S.A. In addition, to raising vegetables they also sell organic eggs, organic chicken, and provide a full service bakery. As a member of the C.S.A they can refer you to other farms in the area if you want something they don't grow, raise or make themselves.
For myself and my family we look forward to the warm months in which we can resume our Green Grocery Getting. By adopting this type of shopping you will spend less, eat better, help keep a farm alive, and help our country to save energy. But then again, maybe the best reward to this is the time spent on a early summer morning eating warm fresh bread and heading out to the strawberry field with your baskets and children.