How Local Can You Go?

Ruth Price

Seasonal produce at the Portland, Maine Farmer's Market - photo courtesy of www.facebook.com/PortlandMaineFarmersMarket

“Local” has become a new buzz word in America but what does it really mean, and why should we get on board? The reality is that within our own lifetimes we will witness the end of cheap oil and will have to learn to get by with less, whether we want to or not. In an attempt to practice just that, I planted a 600 sq. foot vegetable garden on some family property last year and found it to be very rewarding.

My family and I tilling the ground that will eventually become the garden. I am the farthest on the left holding the rake. Moving right across the photo: my sister, my husband, my brother, my dad, and my brother-in-law (operating the Gravely).

Our family garden about 7 weeks after planting.

Like many people though, I enjoy eating fresh produce all year round and when growing season is over, I find myself perusing the grocery aisles for tomatoes from Mexico and bell peppers from Holland. How can I justify this when I think about how much oil it takes to manufacture, fuel and maintain the truck or cargo ship that transported that produce to my supermarket?

The obvious answer to this dilemma is to only buy produce during its growing season and to do so at your local farmer’s market, which for me is the South Portland Farmer’s Market. Here in Maine, there are many farmers’ markets, several of which operate during the winter months! In fact, the Portland Farmer’s Market holds the accolade of being the oldest continually operating market in the country, something Mainers can be proud of!

While I would love to support my local farmer’s market year round, my current budget does not permit me to do so. To help compensate for this, I plan to enroll in a food preservation class next year at my local university (University of Southern Maine). The course teaches not only canning techniques, but drying, freezing, pickling and much more. That way I can begin to build skills on how to preserve my own harvest, which will ultimately help my budget.

No matter what measures you decide are right for you – growing or buying local, eating in season or preserving your own harvest – the outcome will be the same: you will reduce greenhouse gases and gain valuable experience in how to use less oil, a skill that will help save your wallet in the long run as the price of oil rises.

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