No more excuses

May 10, 2009 at 3:45 pm 1 comment

Sorry, we’ve got no more excuses for not eating local. Sustainable food is affordable and accessible here, if you know how to cook and where to look: Farmers’ Markets, CSA farms and community gardens abound.

We just got our first box of unbelievable bounty from Edible Earthscapes CSA (it’s costing us about $12.50 per week for a small two-person share and it’s gonna be hard to consume it all before the next box is ready). What’s more, our neighborhood co-op Chatham Marketplace has emerged stronger from the winter recession doldrums, just in time for its third birthday. And my own modest backyard veggie-and-herb-bed looks promising.

Thanks to the spring cornucopia, our Sunday brunch at home was even more locavoreal than usual. We had one of my best omelets ever, if I do say so myself, thanks to fresh cage-free eggs from Star Barn Farm in Hickory Mountain (scored at the new Saturday Farmer’s Market at Carolina Brewery in Pittsboro) plus oregano and Mizuna from my CSA box, with roasted potatoes and fresh-baked LaMiche bread (my favorite) from Chatham Marketplace.

Last night my salad was a big hit at a potluck supper thanks again to local ingredients from the CSA: Butterhead lettuce, beets and turnips, Mizuna and cilantro, with some crushed walnuts, croutons from leftover Marketplace bread, green onions from Sparrow Farm via the Saturday market, and homemade Balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

In my piece of paradise you can’t spit without hitting a sustainable gardener. Last count we had about 30 Farmer’s Markets in the greater Triangle area, including at least 7 new ones this year alone (it’s hard to keep count) and 4 in Chatham County (Tuesdays in Fearrington, Thursdays at the Fairgrounds in Pittsboro and Saturdays at Carolina Brewery in PBO and in downtown Siler City). There are markets at UNC and Duke hospitals and on the N.C. State campus, and in most cities and towns in the region. No matter where you live or commute in these parts, you can find fresh, chemical-free local vegetables, fruits, eggs, bread, cheese, milk, meats and flowers for sale.

Our region has more than two dozen Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, including 9 in Chatham County alone (6 in greater Pittsboro!), 6 in Orange, 6 in Western Wake, 2 in Alamance, 2 in Person and 1 in east Randolph. With a CSA, you help the farmers out by paying for a full season of food upfront, and they help you by filling your box full of farm fresh food every week. A good deal all around. No wonder most of them are booming.

Let me tell you a bit about Edible Earthscapes CSA where we’re getting veggies and herbs every week. Jason and Haruka are small farmers who moved to Chatham from Japan about a year and a half ago because they’ve got a close friend here who told them it was the most innovative sustainable farming community in America. Jason had never heard of Pittsboro, they were thinking about moving to Oregon or Washington state. But friend Chris prevailed and they came here instead.

And are they ever happy about it. Soon after they arrived, Lyle of biodiesel fame allowed them to take over the farm incubator spot that Farmer Doug had started at the Biofuels Co-op and fronted them funds to build the necessary 8-foot high deer fence (by hand). They also inherited the greenhouse and space for an amazing one-acre garden. They’ve got a chicken run around the edge of the grounds so pests can be intercepted by the free-range hens before they reach the veggies.

Jason and Haruka are in their second season, selling at a Raleigh market and now filling 34 CSA boxes a week — much more than they expected to have at this point. They are growing all kinds of lettuces and greens, peas, tomatoes, okra, squash, eggplant, beets, turnips, daikon, onions, garlic, potatoes, lots of herbs and flowers, and they are even experimenting with rice (stay tuned).

They’ll eventually transition to their own place so other new farmers can get a start. That’s one way Chatham’s sustainable farms have been growing even as conventional farming is on the decline.

The sun is shining, the sky is Carolina blue and we’re on the 10-mile low-CARBON diet big time now. Despite my recent pay cut (uh, “furlough”), we can still afford fresh eggs, arugula and more. In fact we’re eating better than ever.

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