Thursday, November 30, 2006

Celebrating Late Season Locally Grown Organic Food

Link to information on "Taste of Organic" Reception and Dinner

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As winter weather closes in on east central Illinois those of us who really prefer summer to the other seasons have less and less to sustain us. If you’re working in the yard or garden these days you’re probably making up things to do. Fishing is slow and birding is more and more difficult. Even now, though, there’s one last vestige of summer 2006 left: the Urbana Farmer’s Market. Sure, it has moved inside, and it’s a smaller affair now than it was at the height of the growing season. But hey, come Saturday you’ll still be able to buy locally produced organic food there, and that’s something to celebrate.

The farmers I spoke with this week said that root crops will be the most abundant produce: potatoes, radishes, beets, turnips, and the like. But you should also be able to find some leafy greens, like kale. And I’m told that one grower still had some tomatoes and green peppers last week, so you never know. Beyond that, organically produced meat and eggs will also be available

Why bother shopping for local food at this time of year when there’s so much else going on? For the same reasons you do any other time.

Taste is one reason. Produce that’s eaten shortly after it’s harvested tastes better than produce that’s been wrapped in plastic and trucked from California. And vegetables that don’t have to make such a journey can be selected for their unique flavor rather than their ability to withstand mechanical harvesting and shipping.

You may also seek out organically produced food in the interest of human health. That might be your own health, if you’re concerned about traces of pesticides in what you eat, or the health of farm workers, who are exposed to those pesticides in far more concentrated forms.

When you buy organic produce you support farmers who are working to create a healthier environment. By avoiding synthetic pesticides and artificial fertilizers they are protecting the soil by which they make a living. At the same time they are protecting the public good as well, by not polluting streams and rivers with nutrient and chemical runoff.

When you buy food at the farmers market you also promote a healthy local community. Smaller scale farming is more conducive to family participation than larger-scale, more highly mechanized production. And smaller scale distribution promotes ties between the people who produce food and the people who consume it to the benefit of both.

If you are interested in learning even more about organic farming in Illinois, or just eating some really super organic food, you might want to attend the public dinner and reception to be held in conjunction with a conference on organic production and marketing in Bloomington next week. The dinner is billed as “an opportunity to learn about organic food, talk to real organic farmers, get some great recipes, and (best of all) TASTE some wonderfully prepared organic food.” For more information click here, Taste of Organic, or contact Dan Anderson with the U of I’s Agroecology / Sustainable Agriculture Program. His phone number is 217-333-1588.