Get Your Green(s) Back this Winter

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Tompkins Weekly 12/03/2012

By Avi Miner

A favorite children’s book of mine starts off:  “If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk.”  And so on until said mouse realizes what he needs is another cookie.  I’ve found that the Tompkins County equivalent of a cookie is the first spring asparagus from the farmers’ market, grilled on a warm spring day and starting off another year of cravings for the spectacular array of foods that follow one another throughout the growing season.

The chalkboard in Sweet Land Farm’s community supported agriculture distribution shed in Trumansburg has reminded shareholders all year that “We are here because of you.”  This hints at a main reason for the area’s abundance: hardworking farmers have found a lot of customers who are falling in love with a food system that produces high quality food year round while contributing millions of dollars annually to the local economy.  A year managing the Trumansburg Farmers’ Market has brought home just how innovative, hardworking, community-minded, giving, and FUN the farmers are – and what good fortune that they have chosen this area to live and work in!  This, to me, is the most exciting part of local food.  I love the end result on my dinner plate, but the people turning the wheels of the food system in Tompkins County are who really put us on the map.

For those of you despairing at the prospect of a long winter without the fresh food of the growing season, fear not!  Get Your Green Back Tompkins, a campaign to inspire people and businesses to take meaningful steps to save energy and money, is focusing on local food for the month of December.  There are many ways to get local food on your plate even though fields will soon be frozen and covered in snow.

The Ithaca Farmers’ Market, described in the New York Times as “an East Coast version of Seattle’s Pike Place Market,” continues at the Steamboat Landing location from 10am – 2pm every Saturday until December 22nd, and will move to The Space at Greenstar from January to March, operating there each Saturday from 11-2.  The market offers a comprehensive array of local food products, including produce, cheese, meat, wine, cider, baked goods, crafts, and more.  Plan a visit to the market in December and make holiday shopping a local affair! Gift certificates are also available.

Speaking of gifts, another great option is a gift certificate to one of the many restaurants in the area that source a large portion of their ingredients from nearby farms.  Chefs have a keen taste for quality products, so it’s no wonder they’re buying food locally.  Ithaca has more restaurants per capita than New York City, so enjoy a meal out with family or friends and ask for the local items on the menu.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a member of a CSA.  Community Supported Agriculture is an arrangement with a farm in which shareholders pay for a season’s worth of produce and then receive a share every week.  Tompkins County residents have more than 30 CSAs to choose from, offering products such as vegetables, chicken, eggs, beef, pork, cheese, bread, lacto-fermented foods, sauces, and soups.   Even during the winter, these products are available via CSA!  Local farmers are implementing season extension facilities such as hoophouses, row covers, and temperature controlled storage facilities to provide food for the majority of the year.   Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County lists winter CSAs on its website at ccetompkins.org.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County also publishes a Buy Local Guide every two years.  The guide lists dairy, meat, poultry, honey, maple, and specialty producers, u-pick farms, roadside stands, CSAs, and farmers’ markets in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.  Got a lot of freezer space?  Browse the meat section of the guide for farmers selling quarters and halves of beef, pork, goat, or lamb.  Buying local meat in bulk brings the price down significantly and you’ll have a chance to cook with cuts of meat you might not see in the grocery store.  The free guide is available on the Cornell Cooperative Extension website (www.ccetompkins.org) and available in print at the extension office at 615 Willow Ave.

Browse the resources section of the Get Your Green Back website (getyourgreenbacktompkins.org) to learn even more ways to find local food year-round.  I know I’ll be storing some garlic through the winter to go with that spring asparagus.

Avi Miner is a Local Food Program Assistant at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.  He also manages the Trumansburg Farmers’ Market.

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