Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Connect with your local food grower

There couldn't be a better time than this decade for small businesses to reach their customers in more than one ways. Who hasn't heard of the buzz about hyper-local small farms, farm-to-table movements, support for local farmers and multi-million dollar investing happening in tech ventures supporting agriculture. While we all like to drink and dine at a high-end restaurant that uses the freshest ingredients in it's menu, it would be nice if we can bring some of that fresh produce  to cook our everyday meal. There are more than one apps and/or web platforms today, besides Facebook, that allow you to connect with local food growers who would like to share their excess produce with you.

Local food should not always be limited to that which comes from a recognized, well-established farm. There may be a neighbor four blocks from your house that grows some fragrant basil. Instead of rushing to the grocery store, it might be worth connecting with other gardeners in your neighborhood that can share their excess produce with you. Wouldn't that be called supporting local food ? I bet. The tendency to go to grocery store comes from the need to shop conveniently. Grocery stores are a one-stop shop where you get inside the walls and get out with a truck load of food (some of which can be highly over priced, herbs, for example). But with a tad bit of effort, you can get fresher food, from a known source along with the fun of receiving food from someone who grows edible produce responsibly.  Your local gardener may not be certified organic or someone who is GAP (good agriculture practises) compliant but then you know who he is, how he grows and what he puts in it's soil. So you decide, by actually looking, and not reading labels and believing in certifications, whether or not that produce is good for you or not. In no way am I suggesting not to go to grocery stores or defy what certified labels say. My own grocery bill sometimes exceed $300 a month. I have tried my hands on online grocery delivery services like Fresh Direct that deliver food at your doorstep. I used in mostly in winters when it was too cold to go out (or too lazy to leave a blanket). In my experience, these services have limitations of how much one can customize their food order. Moreover, at times, the quantities that come in a single order are miserably less. But again, it is convenient.

Try your hands on apps like LocalCarrot, which helps you enter your zip-code and find people who are growing some produce near you. RipeNearMe(common mostly in Australia) and The Farmer's Garden (http://www.thefarmersgarden.com/) are similar web platforms. Invite your friends who grow food in their backyard garden to share their produce with you and others in the community. Log in to these apps to see if you can get fresh thyme leaves from someone in your own neighborhood. Encourage someone who you know is growing something edible to use these apps to share his/her excess produce.

The idea of a truly sustainable community should come from an interest to consume food that is grown near you and support growers, big and small, who put effort in growing the best quality food there is. A local food grower may not have the capacity to fulfill all your produce needs, neither can it offer the convenience of a grocery store. He can, however, offer you small amounts of food that he has grown with all his attention and is happy to share it just for the joy of it. It makes real difference in the taste of food on your table when it is harvested fresh and has traveled just a few miles to be in your kitchen.