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July 13th, 2012

Teaching Kids Where Food Comes From

Groovy Green Livin Organic Vegetable Garden

A while back I made a resolution to eat sustainable, locally grown food as much as possible. I’ve done my best, but it’s next to impossible to grow or find seasonal locally grown food year-round in New England.  When those cold winter months kick in there’s not a lot growing in our area and we have no choice but to depend upon local markets to bring in produce from other places.

I want my kids to know where their food comes from

The supermarkets neatly package our food and everything is ready for immediate consumption.  As we’re going up and down the aisles we generally don’t give much thought to where our food comes from.  Most food travels far to reach us- from another state or another country.  The grocery store knows no seasons-you can buy organic strawberries in December although they were grown in June and corn throughout the year. Don’t get me wrong-I’m very grateful that this produce is available year-round, but I want my kids to understand the difference.

Ways to connect with food

CSA

Many years ago we joined a CSA (consumer supported agriculture). Every week our box is filled with interesting fruits and vegetables grown on a local, organic farm. My kids are interested in what comes in the box each week and it gives us a chance to talk about where the local, seasonal food is coming from.

Farmer’s Market

I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and spent many Saturdays going to the incredible farmer’s market. It happens to be the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country. Now that I live on the East Coast I’ve discovered small farmer’s markets while on vacation and larger markets in neighboring towns. Farmer’s market’s can be found through out the world and they range from large to small, but they all have one thing in common: farmers selling directly to consumers without a middle man. When you buy direct from a farmer you’re recreating a connection between the land and the food you eat.

Grow your own

We decided this year to carve out a small garden in our yard and grow some of our own vegetables. HERE are a few photos of  the beginning stages of our garden. It’s extremely small since we don’t get very much sunlight around our house.  But that small patch of land has a few plants that are growing like crazy.

Groovy Green Livin organic garden

I know that our garden isn’t going to be a big producer of veggies and it’s not going to impact our weekly shopping list. Our kids are my motivation for planting a garden. They scan the garden daily looking for something ripe enough to pick. When they had friends over this week they all picked one cucumber and divided it into 5 pieces to share. It doesn’t get much better then that.

Groovy Green Livin organic cucumber

Check out this incredible plant in our garden. My friends on Facebook and Twitter helped me figure out what it is. Can you guess?

Groovy Green Livin organic zucchiniFinally we are seeing small vegetables growing on this gorgeous plant. Can you see what they are?

Groovy Green Livin organic zucchini

Looking for what’s local and seasonal in your area? There’s an app or two for that!

How do you connect with your food? Do you grow your own, go to farmer’s markets or join a CSA?

This post is part of  the another fabulous Green Moms Carnival carnival hosted this month by the wonderful Abbie of  Farmer’s Daughter.  Be sure to stop by Farmer’s Daughter next week for lots of great information on ways we can all work towards becoming more food independent.

June 4th, 2012

5 Tips for Your Visit to the Farmer’s Market

Groovy Green Livin Organic Farmer's Market

It’s almost summer and farmer’s markets are popping up everywhere. They range from large to small, but they all have one thing in common: farmers selling directly to consumers without a middle man. It’s really a win-win situation. Typically farmer’s markets have a great selection of fruits, vegetables, flowers, soaps, breads and other local specialty foods and crafts. I recently visited a farmer’s market and discovered some pretty incredible, hand-made soap.

There are many reasons to visit a local farmer’s market:

  • Support your local economy
  • Buy produce with little to no packaging
  • Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables
  • Support local farming
  • Buy organic produce and products

On your next visit to your local farmer’s market here are a few tips to help you navigate your experience:

Bring reusable bags

Reusable bags aren’t just for the supermarket. Your local farmer’s market is the perfect venue for reusable bags. According to my friend Beth Terry of My Plastic Free Life there’s no excuse for using single-use plastic bags. If you don’t want to carry the large, supermarket reusable bags try a smaller version that fits into your purse or backpack. You might want to bring an insulated bag to keep items cold.

Get there when they open (or when they’re about to close)

It’s a bit hypocritical that I have this on the list. I’m far from a morning person. However, I do know that farmer’s markets tend to be less crowded when they first open. If you’re an early bird you will also have the best selections available to you. You might score a last minute deal if you head to the market when it’s just about to close down. The farmers might be willing to negotiate a discount so they don’t have to take it home.

Be flexible

Heading to the farmer’s market without a detailed list seems to work best. That will enable you to walk into the market and have the flexibility to choose produce and other items that look fresh and interesting.

Talk to the farmers

One of the highlights of a farmer’s market is the opportunity to talk directly to the farmer about the product you are thinking of buying. This is also your chance to ask how to store the product and how long it will stay fresh. We bought tomato plants last week and the farmer was so excited to share planting tips.

Bring cash

Many of the booths only accept cash so it’s important to be prepared. It’s no fun to find a really amazing product and then realize that you don’t have the cash to purchase it.

Finding a farmer’s market

No worries if you’re not sure how to find a local farmer’s market-there’s an app for that! Use your smart phone or iPad to help locate the closest market to you.

Another option is to use Local Harvest to find organic food that’s grown closest to you. This site will help find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area.

Do you go to your local farmer’s market? Any tips to share?

Photo Farmer market © Baloncici #5457301

Linked up with Natural Mothers Network

May 30th, 2012

Farmer’s Market Adventure

Groovy Green Livin homemade organic soap

It’s Wednesday and all over the internet you will find photos with no words of explanation. Why? Because pictures say a thousand words.

This past weekend I went to my first farmer’s market of the season. The market was filled with incredible organic plants, pet products and sweet treats. Here are a few things we decided to purchase.

Eco-friendly, all natural homemade soaps from Chase Street Soap Co.

Groovy Green Livin organic soap

Gorgeous seasonal flowers. They reminded me that I really need to get that garden going.

Groovy Green Livin Farmer's Market flowers

What’s your favorite thing to buy at the farmer’s market?

Make sure to check out these great blogs who also share on Wordless Wednesday: I Thought I Knew Mama, Dagmar’s Momsense, My Organized Chaos.

May 29th, 2012

2 Apps for Eating Local

Groovy Green Livin Organic Local Vegetables

Have you noticed? We, as a culture, have lost sight of seasonal, local food. When we head to the supermarket we are fortunate to have apples available year round, strawberries ready to eat in the middle of winter and tomatoes ripe at all times. The food sometimes comes to us from far off lands and somehow maintains its crispness and ripeness. It’s a luxury to have these foods available at all times, but there are plenty of reasons to reach first  for locally grown foods.

Why eat locally grown foods?

  • Eating local foods fights global warming. The average fresh food item on our dinner table travels 1,500 miles to get there. Buying locally-produced food eliminates the need for all that fuel-guzzling transportation.
  • Local food looks and tastes better. The crops are picked at their peak, and we eat them when they are in season.
  • They’re better for you.  The food gets to your table in a short amount of time allowing the food to remain fresh and retain its nutrients.
  • Eating locally grown food helps the local economy. Farmers who sell directly to the local customer receive the full retain dollar on their products since they don’t have to invest much in transportation, processing, packaging, refrigeration and marketing.
  • Local food creates a connection between eater and grower. We, as a culture, have lost sight of where our food comes from. When you buy direct from a farmer you’re recreating a connection between the land and the food you eat.
  • Local food is safe. You know who you are buying from and they take their responsibility to the consumer seriously.

Wondering how to find local, seasonal foods? There’s an app (or two) for that!

NRDC Eat Local App

NRDC Eat Local is a free iPhone app (sorry, Android) which offers an array of information on local foods. Want to know which produce is in season in your state this month? Wonder where the closest farmers’ markets are? The app provides info on more than 60 produce items, along with nutritional info, cooking suggestions, storage ideas and other interesting facts. The app lists more than 5,200 farmers markets and there are more than 100 links to recipes. The app also provides nutritional details and tips on storage, preparation and cooking. The app is very easy to use-just click on a button to see what’s in season near you. Enter your zip code to find a local farmer’s market.  My one complaint: I’m always curious if the produce at a farmer’s market is local and organic. I didn’t see anything on this app for finding organic, local food. Overall, this app is a keeper.

The app is free and available for Apple users at iTunes.

Locavore

I’m a Locavore fan and written about this app before. If you’re looking for the closest farmers market selling your favorite in season produce Locavore is the app for you. Locavore is a great app for those looking for local, in season, organic foods in your area. The app has one-click access to thousands of healthy, seasonal recipes and other information that can be shared with your friends and family. I like how the app not only lets you know which fruits and veggies are in season-it also lets you know how long it will be in season. This year I refuse to miss blueberry season again. I guess I’ll have to visit the farmer’s markets to find out if their produce is organic.

This app is free and available for android and iPhone users. Get it HERE.

How do you find local, seasonal foods?

Photo: Vegetables market © Baloncici #5449009

July 14th, 2011

Preserve Summer: How to Freeze Blueberries

organic blueberries

Blueberry season is in full swing here in New England and pints of blueberries can be found at most markets and farm stands. Blueberries are ripe and ready to pick only during the month of July in most places, so now is the time to stock up on your favorite organic blueberries.

organic wild blueberriesThere are plenty of places to find blueberries. We recently stumbled upon a blueberry patch in Maine where the berries are wild and free. There are many other options for stockpiling these plump, sweet berries. Joining a CSA and visiting your local farmer’s market are both great alternatives for buying local berries. Other fun options include visiting a pick-your-own farm stand or finding a random blueberry patch growing naturally in a field.

Blueberries happen to be listed on the Environmental Working Groups “Dirty Dozen” –one of 12 fruits and/or vegetables that contain the highest amounts of pesticide residue. Try to buy or pick only organic blueberries to avoid high levels of pesticides.

Stock up on organic blueberries when they are on sale and in season, then follow these simple steps in order to enjoy them year round.

FREEZING BLUEBERRIES

  1. Place your blueberries in a colander and remove any stems, leaves and other items you wouldn’t want to eat (sticks, bugs). Rinse them gently in cold water.
  2. Arrange the berries in a single layer on a baking sheet that will fit flat in your freezer. Spread them out so they don’t freeze together. If you have a lot of berries you can stack the trays.
  3. Leave them in the freezer overnight-so they are completely frozen.
  4. Once the berries are frozen solid, use glass containers to store them. Many people use plastic freezer bags or plastic containers, but you know how I feel about plastic. I would suggest glass mason jars for storing your berries.
  5. They can be stored in the freezer for up to two years.

THAWING YOUR BLUEBERRIES

blueberry pancakesWhen you are ready to use your berries-thaw, wash and use them.

To thaw frozen blueberries place the glass jar in the refrigerator overnight. Please don’t microwave them! Also, don’t place your frozen jar of berries in piping hot water-it will shatter.

THE POWER OF BLUE-HEALTH BENEFITS OF BLUEBERRIES

With just 80 calories per cup and virtually no fat, blueberries offer many noteworthy nutritional benefits.

  • Blueberries are packed with antioxidants
  • They are overflowing with Vitamin C
  • Blueberries are filled with fiber
  • Excellent source of Manganese

Now you can enjoy your organic blueberries year round.

Are you freezing fruit this year? Do you have any tips  or suggestions for freezing?

For more information on how to preserve all sorts of fruits and vegetables check out PickYourOwn.org

This post is part of this months Green Moms Carnival on food preservation. The carnival is hosted this month by Abbie from Farmer’s Daughter and goes live Monday, July 18th. Be sure to stop by for lots of great tips, suggestions and thoughts on preserving our summer bounty.

[Photos used under Creative Commons by Kyle McDonald, La Grande Farmers Market, Janineomg/Flickr]

July 12th, 2011

How Does Your Organic Garden Grow?

organic garden

my organic gardenThere’s nothing like picking fresh vegetables from your very own garden. I have been planting a garden with my 3 boys for the past 6 years. I love watching how excited they get as the plants grow. Our garden has always been in the front of our house-the only spot that gets a few hours of decent sunlight. Thankfully, I’m not living in Oak Park, Michigan where planting a vegetable garden in your front yard is apparently a crime.

This year my garden didn’t happen. As much as my kids and my husband begged me to get some plants in the ground, I didn’t get my act together. Even though there’s no dedicated garden space on our front lawn, I still want my children to have a sense of where their food comes from. Fortunately, there are other ways to connect with your local, seasonal food.

If you didn’t get to a garden this year here are a few alternatives that will allow you to enjoy local, summer produce.

  • Plant organic potted tomatoes. This is about as easy as it gets for gardening. Tomatoes organic tomato plantare very hardy plants that don’t need a lot of TLC. Our potted tomato plants started from organic seedlings purchased at our local nursery.
  • Join a CSA.  Community-Supported or Community-Shared Agriculture (CSA) is also known as “subscription farming.” You buy a subscription from a local farmer and you receive a “share” of fresh, locally grown or raised fruit and/or vegetables. Some farmers also offer CSA subscriptions for farm-fresh eggs, and/or meats.  If the farm is close by you can pick up your share at the farm. Most often the CSA sets up convenient pick-up locations in and around the area you live. Our CSA is not close – we are very fortunate to have a neighbor who organized a pick-up location at her house. Each week we receive a box filled with delicious, fresh, local produce.  If you would like to find a local CSA in your neck of the woods take a look at LocalHarvest.
  • Visit your local farmer’s market. If you are looking for fresh produce and other local products, your local farmer’s market is the perfect spot. If you would like to find a local farmer’s market in your area check with LocalHarvest.
  • Micaela from Mindful Momma just tested out a box of organic fruit from FruitShare-seasonal fruit delivered to your doorstep. The company’s mission is to connect organic family farms to consumers who want great tasting, in season, pesticide free fruit. I haven’t tried this one yet, but there’s nothing like seasonal, organic fruit.
  • Whatever form of “gardening” you choose, make sure to involve your children. Healthy Child Healthy world has a great list of tips for organic gardening with children.

Favorite recipe: Joel’s roasted tomatoes (My husband is quite the chef and makes this recipe all the time)

organic grape tomatoes

Ingredients

4 cups grape or cherry tomatoes

1 garlic peeped and in cloves

About 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  • Preheat an oven to 450 degrees.
  • Place the tomatoes and garlic into a casserole dish and mix in olive oil so that tomatoes and garlic are evenly coated.
  • Bake the grape tomatoes in the preheated oven until the skins pop and start to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Where do your summer vegetables come from? Do you garden?

[Top photo used under Creative Commons from net efket/Flickr]
[Tomato photo used under Creative Commons from Bri Lehman/Flickr]

June 16th, 2011

Midyear Resolution: Eat Local Sustainable Food

local farmers market

Who says New Year’s resolutions have to start on January 1? The Babylonians did. The tradition of resolutions started way back when with the Babylonians and people all over the world have been breaking them ever since.

Bad timing

January 1st doesn’t work for me.  I am usually digging deep down into my bag of tricks to find ways to keep my kids entertained during winter vacation.  January is also the time when I am finally coming up for air after the stressful holiday season-definitely not a time I want to be making resolutions that will bring about significant changes in my life. There’s a good chance I will fail so I skip it year after year.

Midyear resolution might work

When Lynn from Organic Mania raised the idea of a midyear resolution my initial reaction was “no way”, but after giving it some thought I think it’s actually doable. The weather is beautiful and it feels like a natural time to reevaluate and find ways to better myself.  So I’m going to give it a go.

My midyear resolution: To eat sustainable, locally grown food (as much as possible).

Why eat local and sustainable foods?

  • Eating local foods fights global warming. The average fresh food item on our dinner table travels 1,500 miles to get there. Buying locally-produced food eliminates the need for all that fuel-guzzling transportation.
  • Local food looks and tastes better. The crops are picked at their peak, and we eat them when they are in season.
  • They’re better for you.  The food gets to your table in a short amount of time allowing the food to remain fresh and retain its nutrients.
  • Eating locally grown food helps the local economy. Farmers who sell directly to the local customer receive the full retain dollar on their products since they don’t have to invest much in transportation, processing, packaging, refrigeration and marketing.
  • Local food creates a connection between eater and grower. We, as a culture, have lost sight of where our food comes from. When you buy direct from a farmer you’re recreating a connection between the land and the food you eat.
  • Local food is safe. You know who you are buying from and they take their responsibility to the consumer seriously.
  • Sustainable food production methods are healthy, don’t harm the environment, respect workers, are humane to animals, provide fair wages to farmers, and support farming communities.

How to buy local, sustainable food

  • Grow your own food. You will know exactly where your food comes from. I’ve tried this one and my green thumb isn’t very green. Maybe you’ll have better luck.
  • Join a CSA. I already belong to Community-Supported or Community-Shared Agriculture (CSA), also known as “subscription farming.” I buy a subscription from a local farmer and receive a “share” of fresh, locally grown or raised fruit and/or vegetables each week.  If you would like to find a local CSA in your neck of the woods take a look at Local Harvest .
  • Visit your local farmers market for fresh, locally grown produce, meat and cheeses.  At the market you can look the farmer in the eye, ask question, know where your food is coming from and feel good about it. There are plenty of local markets around that I will check out.
  • Use Local Harvest to find organic food that’s grown closest to you. This site will help find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area.
  • When I’m shopping at the supermarket I’m going to pay close attention to how far the food has traveled. The local Whole Foods Market labels their produce with the country and state of origin. I will use information this to decide whether or not to buy the produce, meat or cheese, along with many other factors including whether it’s organic and the any other ingredients.

Do you have a midyear resolution?

Do you focus on buying locally?

This post is for the Green Moms Carnival on midyear resolutions hosted this month by Lynn over at Organic Mania. Be sure to head over to Lynn’s site  to see what the other amazing green mom’s are planning (or not planning!) to do for their midyear resolutions.

[Photo used under Creative Commons from Cleber Mori/Flickr]

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I like to make noise and stir the pot especially when an issue hits home and effects the health of our families. Join me as I make some noise and share along the way tips for living a green and healthy life. Read more.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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