As I noted, these options may not be available to everyone so I wanted to offer some alternatives.
But first, I wanted to point out something in case you are feeling bad that you can’t eat everything (or even anything) locally grown. To start with, while it is an admirable goal to want to eat everything local, it’s just not always practical or even possible.
That’s why one of the suggestions made by the Eat Local Challenge is “to choose five foods that you can source locally.” Note they say foods, not necessarily produce. As they say, “try to incorporate a few locally grown items, focus on what you can get, locally raised beef, poultry or pork, eggs, and even honey are examples.”
You also might want to remember to eat with the seasons, like our ancestors did, and think about why certain food traditions are associated with certain seasons. After all, at one time, those foods were all that was available. It’s also cheaper to eat with the seasons.
The Eat Local Challenge also suggests to at least buy locally produced items like bread, pastries, coffee and jams even though they aren’t always sourced with local ingredients. As they say, “the next best thing is to buy them from local businesses: coffee purveyors who source their beans carefully and roast locally, bakers who buy the best wheat they can and make daily bread in the next town over, artisans who buy citrus from a reputable farm and make a local marmalade. You’re still keeping some of your dollars local and supporting local businesses.”
Another great option to finding local food is through a food cooperative. Food coops are customer or worker owned businesses that provide high quality, good value grocery items to its members. Most coops usually support local family farms. Coops can be either retail stores or buying clubs.
Like a CSA, a buying club allows members to order food for regular delivery. The difference is that you pay-as-you-go instead of up front and you can order as often or as little as you want. Typical items include artisan meats and cheeses, raw dairy products, eggs, poultry, grains and heirloom varieties of produce.
Local Harvest lists over 145 buying clubs and over 690 food coops.
Preserving food while it’s in season by pickling, canning, freezing or dehydrating fresh summer/fall produce for late fall and winter consumption is another idea encouraged by The Eat Local Challenge. While it’s too late to do that this year, try to include this in your food plans for next year.
Growing some of your own produce is another way to increase your local consumption. You can do what farmers who grow throughout the winter do; invest in a greenhouse, a hoop house (a tunnel covered with clear plastic), or a cold frame.
Finally, remember: be realistic and sensible about what works for you, where you live, and for your lifestyle. If you can’t find local foods, then try to buy or find things that are sourced from fair-trade companies, or even try to find some local produce at natural foods stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods. They still market “locally” grown even in the winter.