by Abbie Walston, founder of the Farmer’s Daughter blog
Abigail Rose Walston is mother to Joshua, wife to Ed, an environmentalist, teacher, and blogger. She was raised on her family’s 300 year old farm in Connecticut, where she learned to love animals and nature. She holds both a BS and MS in Biology and Secondary Education, and has taught Biology, Environmental Science, Botany and Forensic Science at the high school level for the last eight years. She’s adjusting to her new role as a nursing mother who also works. She supports sustainable living, shops from local farms, cooks from scratch, gardens, reads, writes, and crafts in her spare time, and blogs about it on her web site.
Eating locally is good for your family, the local economy and the environment. One of the best things you can do to provide healthy food for your family and connect with your food and the seasons is to start a garden. It may be mid-July, but it’s not too late! Here in Connecticut, you can harvest cold-weather crops as late as November without any additional equipment! I’ve had success with peas, spinach, lettuces, scallions and carrots when I planted them in late August, and you can also try parsnips, broccoli, kale or radishes. If they have a chance to start growing when it’s still hot and the days are long, their growth will slow as the days get shorter and you’ll have a great fall garden! For garden help, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station is a wealth of information and advice, from identifying insects and testing soil to tips on varieties of tomatoes to grow. You can also visit the Connecticut Community Gardening Association to learn about community gardening, if you want to start a garden but don’t have the space.
Planting a garden is an excellent start for adding local vegetables and fruits to your diet. But Connecticut farms also offer a wide variety of foods, including wine, meats, seafood, milk and cheese, eggs, honey, vegetables, fruits, and baked goods. However, many of Connecticut’s small-scale farms have a specific focus, which can make it feel overwhelming to find the majority of your foods locally. If you’re new to the local foods movement, it’s easy to get started! There are lots of websites to help you find local food. Local Harvest is a national site that enables you to search for farmer’s markets, farm stands, U-pick locations, CSA’s, and restaurants that serve locally grown food. Pick Your Own focuses on U-pick farms and has instructions for how to pick as well as step-by-step directions with photos for preserving your harvest.
There are also websites specific to Connecticut. Buy CT Grown has a search option, email newsletter, recipes and events. The Connecticut Department of Agriculture website is a wealth of information for consumers and producers alike. I especially like their Crop Availability Calendar which clearly shows which foods are available each month in Connecticut, so you can make sure not to miss anything while it’s in season! The CT Farm Map Website allows you to browse farms by county or search for products like wine, honey, Christmas trees, livestock or maple syrup. For family fun, be sure to check out The Association of Connecticut Fairs to find your local agricultural fair. It’s fun to visit your local fair, but you can also participate by entering one of the contests!
The local food movement isn’t just about eating healthy food. It’s about sharing that healthy food with your family and your community, and improving the environment. Starting a garden or visiting a farm is a great way to spend time with your children, and summer is the perfect time to enjoy Connecticut’s bounty! How do you incorporate local food into your lifestyle?