Win, Win! Eat Local and Heal the Planet. In his book Deep Economy, environmentalist Bill McKibben points to the resettling of America's farms as one of the keys to invigorating strong local economies that will heal the planet. That process is well underway as young farmers are increasingly returning to the land. Organizations like Family Farmed and The Land Connection are supporting them. And films like Growing Cities and Urban Roots--two documentaries featured in next month's One Earth Film Festival--are chronicling the rise of urban agriculture.
Today, it's getting easier to participate in the local eating culture that's being created. By doing so, you'll promote not only your own health, you'll be supporting local jobs and reducing the amount of fossil fuel used to ship your food around the world.
So how do northern Illinoisians eat local in the middle of winter? Here are some ideas:
Seek out local farmers markets: Even in the deep of winter, local organizations are holding indoor farmers markets. Dominican University in River Forest is sponsoring a mini-market on February 18 at 6 p.m. Stay for a film screening of Growing Cities from 7 to 8 p.m. After the film, find inspiration by meeting local farmers who are building Chicago’s urban agriculture and community garden movement. Local congregations are also hosting Winter Farmers Markets including Euclid Ave United Methodist, on February 15th and West Suburban Temple, on April 6th (see calendar for details).
Subscribe to a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA): Tomato Mountain Farm delivers to Chicago and surrounding suburbs biweekly in the winter. Think hoop-house-grown spinach, fresh-from-the-farm eggs, jarred tomato sauce, frozen berries and sturdy root vegetables. Most CSAs are accepting applications for spring or summer subscriptions. Sign up now to ensure your spot. See The Local Beet's CSA listings.
Grow herbs in a sunny window: A few packs of seeds, soil, and a sunny window, and you've got pesto in a few weeks! And think...planting season is just a few months away.
Support local food artisans: What do you get when you take handmade sausage from Big Guys and add fresh baked bread from Red Hen? Lunch, local style!
Enjoy a meal out: Chefs are experimenting with the tastes of heirloom foods and sustainably grown meats...the results are amazing! In Oak Park, try Eyrie, which presents seasonally inspired cuisine made from ingredients from local farmers and vendors. Marion Street Cheese Market also focuses on sustainability. And some restaurants in the Chicago area feature a farm to table concept.
Eat seasonally: Eating what the local climate produces now (or, more strictly, last fall and stored through winter) challenges your cooking skills. And this time of year, when the wind howls and the snow piles up, seasonal recipes are as warm and comforting as you'd hope. Think rich, sweet caramelized onions. Creamy potato soup. Maple-glazed squash.
Join the Sugar Beet Co-op: Oak Park and the surrounding communities will enjoy a new local eating resource in 2015 when the Sugar Beet Co-op moves into its new space. In the meantime, the Co-op is looking for members. Consider supporting this exciting effort! www.sugarbeetcoop.com
Learn more about eating local at Green Community Connection's Food Page.