Chances are, if you embark on a culinary adventure this spring either in your own kitchen or while visiting your favorite restaurant, you’ll likely be influenced by locally-sourced food.
An annual survey of 1,300 top chefs by the National Restaurant Association predicts food trends each year. The association’s culinary forecast for 2014 says this year’s top 10 trends have a lot to do with locally-sourced meat, seafood and produce; environmental sustainability; and children’s nutrition.
Momentum for these trends has built over years, and the American Culinary Federation’s president says it’s due to people generally wanting healthy food options.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says there’s no definite consensus on what “local” means geographically, but in 2008 the U.S. Congress said a product is locally- or regionally-produced if it’s shipped fewer than 400 miles from its origination, or stays in the state where it’s produced. Local food could be distributed by farms selling direct to consumers, farms selling to local schools, or farms selling to folks at farmers markets, for example.
If you haven’t yet pursued local food options there are easy ways to get started. Here are some ideas that I’ve found to be effective in increasing the amount of locally-sourced produce, meat, and even general grocery items I use in my own kitchen.
Many communities have food co-ops where local food and other local products are sold year ’round. If you haven’t visited a food co-op, why not try this spring and see what options are available. I am often surprised by the breadth of local items being sold by my local food co-op, and I’m often inspired to change up the variety of food I cook in my kitchen.
My family buys a Community-Supported Agriculture share from a local organic farm each year. By purchasing a share we help offset the farm’s costs each growing season, and in return we receive produce and herbs over the growing season in three-quarter bushels. It’s a fantastic way to have fresh and local food be a part of our everyday routine. LocalHarvest.org has a great run-down of what it means to be in a CSA and offers a national, searchable database of CSAs by zip code.
If you’re not ready to jump into buying a food co-op membership or buying a CSA share from a local farm, you could try visiting your local farmers market during the growing season. I’ve found that the produce being sold is often picked the same day and is of high quality. For a searchable database of farmers markets near you, visit LocalHarvest.org.