GET BACK TO THE FUN OF FOOD
By Tara Dunker
If you would’ve told me on day one of my Extension career that I’d become an advocate for local food, I probably would’ve thought you were nuts.
Not because I opposed supporting local food growers and makers, but because I felt completely out of my depth whenever the subject came up.
Luckily, shortly into my time here in Gage County I stumbled my way onto a University of Nebraska-Lincoln team doing work to create more resilient food systems across our great state.
Cue COVID-19, and suddenly the scenarios we’d been discussing as hypothetical became a fast reality—large processors and distributors unable to meet demand while keeping employees safe, empty store shelves and rising prices for staple items, and neighbors struggling to put food on the table.
My hope is that everyone reading this feels certain about how they’ll feed themselves and their families again, and with that certainty you’re ready to get back to the fun of food—especially local food.
While I still consider myself a novice when it comes to supporting local food growers and makers, I have learned a thing or two over this past year I’d like to share with you.
Veggies taste even better when you know your grower. You may think I’m exaggerating, but I promise it’s true.
By helping out at the Beatrice Farmers Market this season and signing up for a weekly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box, I can tell you my entire family has enjoyed a feeling of community and connection that we wouldn’t get if we bought all our produce from a big box store.
While big box stores have their place in a resilient food system, I can’t text the big box store a picture of my roasted rainbow beets or thank them in-person for the tasty locally roasted coffee beans. And I guarantee the big box store won’t be sending me fun farm update emails with storage tips and recipes anytime soon.
It’s these types of connections that make food fun in entirely new ways, and we all need an extra dose of fun and connection these days.
At the very least, I hope you consider shopping your local farmers markets or local farmer websites for holiday and special occasion gifts for loved ones—honey, coffee, snack mixes, baked goods, and more. I’ve found it almost always makes for the perfect, unexpected surprise.
If you’re ready to take an even deeper dive into the local food scene, be sure to work your local farmers market into your weekly shopping schedule. You’re guaranteed to find seasonally fresh produce of all kinds, baked goods you didn’t even know you wanted, and a lot of friendly faces.
And if you’ve made it this far, I truly hope you look into signing up for a weekly CSA box. This is a subscription that some local farmers offer where you pay a fee up front to support their purchasing of seed and other necessities.
Once they begin harvesting, you receive a weekly box of assorted produce (via pick up or delivery) plus the fun of being part of their community of supporters. So, get out there and support local—you won’t be disappointed.