A local farm stand is a healthy way to pack your pantry
The farm stand offers a healthy, organic and local alternative to supermarkets. Each day, we’re learning more about the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. And with each new piece of information, we’re adjusting our lives and, yes, our eating habits.
Daily trips to the grocery store in search of ingredients for that night’s dinner have become a thing of the past. (As in, last week.) But that doesn’t mean we need to settle for a diet of ramen and PB&J.
At a time when loving your neighbor looks more like living a life of a hermit, it will take some creativity to hold onto the joy of cooking and eating. As we navigate this new reality alongside you, here are a few tips we’ve discovered that can help make the most of our meals during the coronavirus lock-ins.
Shop at a farm stand instead of a grocery store
For too many, a trip to a local farm stand is a treat reserved for strawberry- or apple-picking season. But most local farms that sell their produce at farmers markets or farm stands are fully stocked with items the grocery stores are having trouble keeping on the shelves.
The family who owns Home Farm UPick & Events operates a farm stand about 100 miles north of Seattle near the Canadian border. The roadside stand carries items that are found on most of our weekly grocery lists, such as chicken and duck eggs, raw honey, cheese and coffee.
The owner, Bridgett, encouraged its regular customers to spread the word to their friends who might not know that local farms carry everyday essentials. The food is fresher and it’s a chance to support your neighboring farmers.
“If you’re too far away to stop by, you can now purchase honey on our website and have it shipped directly to you,” Bridgett, owner of Home Farm UPick & Events, shared with her customers this week. “Thanks for supporting local and small businesses wherever you are!”
Potomac Vegetable Farm has encouraged young people to shop their farm stand on behalf of their parents, grandparents and older neighbors. The farm sells produce—from tomatoes and flowers to garlic and blueberries—at the Dupont Circle Fresh Farm Market in Washington, DC.
“We will be at Dupont on Sundays with new protocols, keeping people at a safe distance from both the food and each other,” the farm posted this week.
While several cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have required non-essential businesses to temporarily close their doors, they have deemed farmers markets essential.
Find more than veggies at a farm stand
Most farm stands serve up more than veggies. (Although, yum.) Many sell eggs, cheese, baked goods, and meat.
(My family just picked up a couple of porterhouse steaks from Spring House Farm in Lovettsville, Virginia.)
Dare 2 Dream Farms, a family-owned farm north of Santa Barbara, Calif., is pushing their wild elderberry syrup, which is believed to strengthen the immune system. They also sell goat milk and cheese, fresh-baked bread and chicken eggs.
Find a farm that sells what you’re craving and elevate your meals while staying hunkered down.
Sign up for a CSA
As farm stands see an uptick in business, many are encouraging new customers to take advantage of their CSA programs.
CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture. The model invites patrons to subscribe to a farm’s or a group of farms’ harvest. It’s designed to connect farmers and consumers within the food system more closely, which means fewer middle-men and fewer miles between the producer and the consumer. It’s an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint while supporting your local economy.
CSAs also guarantee that you’ll have locally grown and freshly picked produce at your disposal throughout the coronavirus pandemic—and hopefully long after.
Potomac Vegetable Farm said its CSA is the best way to help them help you. “The best idea of all is to sign up for our CSA,” they told customers this week. “Support your farmers, and avoid the crowds!”
Dare2Dream Farms saw such a surge in business in the past week, it had to close CSA sign-ups for the first time.
“Wow! You guys are awesome,” the farm’s owners posted on its Instagram.
There’s only so much food in the ground to fill the demand, the farm owners added. “This is a huge rush of business for us, and we really appreciate that you all are supporting local small business and farms!”
More and more farms are launching CSA programs. Find one near you using USDA’s online guide.
Cook what you have
If you’re still short on ingredients, consider getting creative with the ingredients you already have.
Time magazine recently asked top chefs to offer tips on cooking using just what’s in the pantry. Chef Pati Jinich, who hosts the PBS series Pati’s Mexican Table, says a lot of people stock up on black beans, pinto beans and chickpeas. But when they get home, they run out of ideas on how to make them appetizing.
She recommends repurposing a typical bean recipe for a few different meals. “Like one day you eat them cooked, the next day you puree a little bit for soup, the next day you make a warm salad, etc.”
Feasting at Home also released 50 farmers market recipes that bring out the best of simple ingredients. Their recipes include easy-to-reheat soups, homemade salsas, and tips on pickling vegetables.
If we all rethink how we shop and cook, we might just come out on the other side of this well fed.
Journalist and author Danielle Nadler grew up in South Dakota, where a patient writing teacher fostered in her a love for stories told well. She's worked for newspapers in the Midwest, on the West Coast and the East Coast, and recently launched a storytelling company called Tales and Ales.