Weekly Newsletter: Eating Local for the Holidays

Over the next few weeks, most of us will be planning to feed family and friends in larger numbers than normal, so I encourage you to share your largesse this season with your local providers. At our forum last night we were reminded of the health, environmental and economic benefits of buying and eating locally grown or produced food. But buying local and eating healthy can also be a great way to demonstrate the giving spirit at the holiday season. Those of us who work hard on this all year know it involves some sacrifices, especially at this time of year, but keep thinking about what it means for your local providers!

I know it’s hard, but I am hoping that you don’t let the crowded aisles in the grocery stores lead you astray — you have been so supportive all year and so true to your convictions! Instead of spending your holiday dollars on imported produce and delicacies, spend a little more time in your own kitchen with your family and create your party foods from local fare — and a few memories too! With minimal input from your local grocery, you can do that, and we have the recipes to prove it. I will try to get some more good recipes that rely heavily on local foods that you can buy at the market on the website over the next few days.

This week alone, I made my second batch of applesauce to have on hand for my granddaughter and to use to make an applesauce cake. And this morning I made a great three-bean salad with local dried beans from Heritage Farm and Kitchen complimented by sauteed and sliced Simply Sausages for my husband’s potluck luncheon at work. Already this week we have eaten local collards, pork and meatloaf made with local beef along with the last of the local spinach and those great potatoes — which we can count on for some time to come. In winter we do narrow our focus and of course we will stray to have green vegetables over the next few months, but in our household we still try to eat seasonally to maintain that rhythm that comes naturally and locally the rest of the year.

Last year about this time I reminded everyone of the “multiplier effect” that spending your money locally has on the local economy. And it bears repeating: If every family in Virginia spent $10 a week on locally grown food for a year, that purchasing power would generate and reinvest more than $500 million in the state’s economy. As I said then, that is money that would otherwise go to states that are many miles away from here — or even Mexico or China for food whose provenance you can never really trust. Which brings me to another interesting fact about our food system: This morning’s Wall Street Journal reports that 1 in 6 people in this country contracts a food-borne illness every year. That is a staggering figure in a country that spends what we do on food safety. And we all know that very little if any of that threat comes from the small, local farmer.

So stay healthy this holiday season. Give the gift of your support to your local providers and farmers who are not polluting our environment in order to grow your food. And do what you can do to reinvigorate the economy. Buy some meat and potatoes and bread and cheese and wine — and candy for dessert — at your local farmers’ market! Can’t beat that for a “win-win” proposition!

Happy holidays to all — see you at the market!