Alas, this weekend marks the end of October and, for many, the end of the Farmers Market season. Of course the second best place to get your local Unprocessed fix is the Farmer’s Market; the first is obviously the garden out back. I’ll be spending my weekend at the various farmers markets, between various trips out back to my own garden to glean the last of the harvest of kale, brussels sprouts and pears.
We are lucky to live where we do because in Ann Arbor, Michigan there is an outdoor (canopied) Farmers Market that runs all year long, as well as an Artisans Market that runs through the holiday season. We also live within short driving distance of Plum Markets and Holiday Markets, who are two locally owned grocers that are kind enough to post where most of their produce comes from (as well as Whole Foods who does the same, despite being big-box).
Still, almost all of the markets in the area are closing their gates this weekend. This is when I start to peer nervously into my freezer and around my kitchen at the shelves; will there be enough food to keep us eating responsibly through the winter? Oh goodness, No. The frozen fruits and vegetables will be gone, likely used before the end of the year. The apples and pears may last, assuming they stay comfortable in their little makeshift root cellars of sand in the pantry.
So what happens after we’ve run our own supply dry? Well, we definitely have access to local meats and grains – it’s only a matter of 2-3 weeks before the drakes and the roosters go off to freezer camp – and many of the farmers around here are better at putting up food than we are so it’s possible to nab some of their preserved harvest at the markets and co-ops.
My winter rule for non-local produce is that it either has to be something in season that we cannot get here in Michigan, or it has to be grown within a few states of us. That means oranges from Florida are okay over the winter, and things like that. Carrots from Tennessee may have to see us through once I’ve exhausted my own, but I figure at least I am a conscious shopper. If I’m aware of the way I eat and shop, I can improve the way I eat and shop. (This is an edited phrase I use for my horseback riding students – “If you feel it, you can fix it!”)
So this weekend I plan to beat my way through the crowds at various Markets in their crowded “Harvest Weekend” chaos. I plan to stock up on the things I wish I’d already stocked up on (winter squash!) and I plan to take a long, deep breath; look around me, and try to think ahead to the markets of spring.
Do you have access to local produce year-round? How do you plan to forge through the winter without local markets (or are you lucky enough to have a winter market)?
Want to read more from Tanglewood Farm? Check out Emily’s blog over at A Pinch of Something Nice where she writes about her experiences with her gardens, her livestock and her leased historical home in SE Michigan.