A few weeks ago, Brandon and I were making out our meal plan and grocery list for the week. Romney Ann often has some input about things she would like to add to the list – a certain kind of cereal, we’re running low on bagels, or maybe her favorite salty snack. But this time she said, “Can we add apples to the grocery list?”
She paused for a second and continued, “Or is it not time for apples yet? I’m ready for them!”
Brandon, surprised, looked at her and said, “No, you’re right Romney Ann, it’s time for apples now.”
“YAY!” she responded! And then proceeded to badger us on when we would be going to the apple orchard.
We certainly aren’t perfect at eating in season, but it seems something we’ve said to her has obviously stuck. Apples, along with most berries, are fruits we try to only eat in season and try to locally source as much as possible. She’s five, but she sure is watching and listening and I guess we’ve told her “No, it’s not the right time for those,” enough that she’s getting it.
The idea of eating seasonally is totally lost on the general public, us included, because of the convenience of the grocery store and mass transportation of food. Even those who boast about purchasing produce from Farmers Markets are being bamboozled. I remember setting up at Soda City Market on Main Street in downtown Columbia across from a produce stand with a “Certified South Carolina Grown” sign hung on a table with mangos and pineapples. Ummm…sure.
Seasonal food is produce that is purchased and consumed around the time that it is harvested. The closer to the source the better, meaning locally grown, as well as being picked at the prime time. Not only do they taste better and fresher but are also more nutrient dense when picked at peak ripeness.
There are ways to enjoy local produce harvested at its optimal time all year round, and that is through preserving. Maybe it’s through canning or freezing. This is an area where we are desperately trying to improve within our own home. Freezing berries is the easiest and one we do every summer. Utilizing apples for apple butter and apple sauce have also been big hits in our household. Canning vegetables is out next endevour!
I think topics like this can quickly become overwhelming. We want to just place our grocery store pick up order, drive up, and have it loaded in the back of the car. I get it. Me too. But our encouragement when it feels overwhelming is to always start somewhere and start small. The worst thing we can do is to do nothing.
I found this really cool website where you can look up your state and the month you’re in and see what is in season in your area. You can also click on each item to see how long their season is AND how to cook with them. Being mindful of what is in season as you shop at your local grocery store or farmers market or farmers stand is a great start. One thing we always encourage is starting with one ingredient of one meal a week to be locally sourced. Start there. Then try to locally source one entire meal. The next step? Your very own garden! This will be your most intimate interaction with what is in season. Start with one pepper plant in a pot or some different herbs. You can do this! The choices we make on how and when to source our food matters!
But Sarah, you’re a livestock farmer, what about seasonality with your products?
That’s a great question, I’m so glad you asked.
While it is different in the world of livestock farming when compared to crops, there is still some seasonality for our products. Let’s start with eggs. People don’t think of them as a seasonal product, but when raised outside and not in a climate controlled chicken house, drastic changes in the temperature as well as extremes can slow down the production of our layers.
Another is our broilers, or meat chickens. Here in the midlands of SC, we do not raise broilers in the heat of the summer nor the cold of the winter. We’ve tried and we’ve lost too many. That’s not good for the treatment of the animal, nor is it a good financial decision. So that means that the chicken we grow and produce in the spring sees us through the summer until we begin again in the fall, and what we produce and stock up on in the fall will see us through the winter.
Lamb is another great example. If we have spring lambs, that means it will be the fall before we have lambs ready to process. For many farmers this is a once a year harvest.
Pork and Beef are much more hardy animals. We’re able to raise them throughout the year and have less of a season, at least in our experience and the way we manage our droves and herds.
So how do we bring this all together? It’s as simple, and yet I realize as difficult as, supporting local. When you support local producers, you’re purchasing produce harvested at the time of prime nutrient denseness, you’re cutting down on the transportation footprint of your food, and you’re supporting your local economy.
So, yes, go ahead and add apples to the grocery list and if you’re around us, make sure to enjoy the last of the summer crops and get ready for a beautiful fall harvest!