Eating has become complicated. It’s no longer simply about sustenance or even taste. Before that first bite, conscious eaters are now asking where their food comes from, what’s in it, whether it’s organic, sustainable, free-range, or grass-fed. Along these lines, what began as an interest in eating locally sourced food has become a full-blown movement, and in our neck of the woods, there are plenty of options.
Eating local can result in healthier, more delicious meals without spending your whole paycheck. From farmer’s markets to community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, farm to table (F2T) restaurants, and even a boom in backyard gardening, eating and drinking local can be easier than you think.
Why Eat Local?
It tastes better and is better for you | Eating local means eating seasonally, which means your food is at its best when you eat it. While we would love tomatoes in December, we all know they taste best ripe and juicy in the summer months straight from the garden. Also, eating food at its freshest means more nutrition for you and your family.
You help your local farmers | Supporting local farmers also supports your local economy, which in turn grows local businesses and services. It also helps preserve those open spaces and farm lands near you.
You’ll know more about where and how your food is raised | Buying from local farms gives you more access—you can learn whether a farm uses pesticides or antibiotics or if it’s using organic methods. These are questions you can get directly answered. Buying local takes the guesswork out of grocery shopping.
It’s better for the environment | Eating locally reduces your food’s carbon footprint. Think of all the resources and fuel it takes to get you those Chilean blueberries in January.
How to Eat Local
From happy hour to dessert, eating locally is easy, delicious, and fun. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania alone, there are more than 65,000 farms, producing everything from dairy to wine, chickens, pigs, and hundreds of different kinds of vegetables and fruits. Whether you love to cook or prefer to dine out, here are smart local eating tips for everyone.
Join a CSA | The idea of a CSA is simple: You buy a share of a farm, typically in the winter for that following spring. When spring rolls around, your CSA begins offering seasonal fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy (depending on your farm of choice) for pick-up or delivery from May to November. Depending on the size of the share and type you choose, prices vary. For example, an individual vegetable share from Pennington’s Honeybrook Farm, a certified organic farm, costs around $400. Included in the produce offering is also a weekly pick-your-own schedule that could be strawberries, blackberries, peppers, or flowers and fresh herbs.
This is a bounty for a family of four. Speaking from 5 years experience as a member, this is far less than you would pay at the grocery store for the same amount of organic produce. Not to mention, from the spoils we make enough jam, tomato sauce, pickled peppers, dilly beans, and even kimchi to last us throughout the year.
An important thing to remember about a CSA is that you are in this with the farmers, hand in hand through the good and bad, witnessing how Mother Nature chooses what makes it to your plate—not what a massive tractor-trailer delivers from the airport. For example, if you wanted corn and the farm’s crop fails, you don’t get corn. You also don’t get mad, or receive a refund. It’s a gamble, but it’s more than worth it for the win.
For a full listing of New Jersey’s CSAs, visit jerseyfresh.nj.gov/find.
Farmer’s Markets | If pulling on your muck boots and heading to the field is not your cup of tea, you can simply swing by one of the dozens of farmer’s markets that polka-dot our towns. The best part of a farmer’s market is having all the local offerings available in one place. From local honey to cheeses, meats, and more, you can support your community at one stop and go home with loads of locally sourced goods. Check your township website or simply do a Google search to find the one closest to you.
On the Move | If you prefer your local eats to come to you instead of seeking them out, there are even food trucks on the local eats scene. SUM Pig food truck can be found at fairs and festivals throughout the summer season, serving up foods from local resources like None Such Farm and natural, smoked meats from Pennsylvania’s famous Leidy’s. SUM Pig is also available for corporate catering, weddings, and parties.
Drink Local | New Jersey and Pennsylvania vineyards combined reach almost 200. That’s a lot of local juice. Support those beautiful vineyards with a day tour, or order private labels for your next party.
Fanatically F2T Finish | Eating local is not just about fruits and vegetables. For the ultimate F2T dessert experience, you can’t beat our local creamery, O Wow Cow. With storefronts in Lambertville, Ottsville, and Wrightstown, O Wow Cow offers super premium hand-made ice cream made from organic, local grass-fed cows at their Bucks County creamery and features locally sourced ingredients. Flavors like honey lavender, four different types of vanilla ice cream, pumpkin spice with walnuts and caramel, cardamom rosewater, garden berry, and maple bourbon make it hard to choose a favorite.
Flavors change seasonally, like the summer favorites mint chocolate chip, featuring local mint, and just peachy, which showcases the ripest peaches grown in nearby Solebury, Pa. This sweet spot highlights everything great about eating local, like the preservation of local farms, use of natural ingredients, and using seasonally inspired ingredients to serve up the most delicious ice cream.