LocalHarvest Newsletter, August 26, 2011

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

August is the month that local food lovers await. Tomatoes, melons, peppers, eggplant, etcetera, all in abundance - at least in the temperate parts of our country. This year, though, temperate areas have been hard to find, and harvests have been sparse in many areas. The drought in Texas has made national news, while other regions got too much rain early in the season and then too little, or too much heat when plants were trying to set fruit. Where I live, it's been a bumper year for cucumbers but not much else!

For most of us, immoderate weather is an inconvenience, but farmers' livelihoods are tied to the sun and rain. Summers like this one are a cause for great concern. Last month LocalHarvest farmers were invited to participate in a survey aimed at learning more about the current challenges and opportunities for farmers. One question asked them to name the issues having the greatest impact on the viability of their farms. Their number one concern? ‘Changing climate/weather patterns' (chosen by 42% of respondents). As we wrote back in 2007, the changing climate adds a new layer of uncertainty to farming, and to our food supply. At the very least, summers like this one make a strong argument for diversification: if one crop or variety doesn't do well, hopefully others will.

And what does a rough summer mean for people who like to eat local food? What is required of us when the pickings are slim at the farmers market, the CSA box contains too much of some things and too little of others, and all the work that went in to the garden offers little in return?

After complaining my way through most of July, in recent weeks I have been working to have a better attitude. Rather than stomping my feet about the sparsity of choices, I needed to take on an "it is what it is” kind of acceptance, and then I could get out my cookbooks and be more creative with the ingredients at hand. Personally, I also had to be a little more flexible. I really believe in supporting local farmers and eating what my family produces ourselves. Our loyalty to them matters, especially in lean years. And, there came a point when we could not live on greens and cucumbers alone. I had to break down and buy some produce at the grocery store, something I rarely do during the growing season. A little respite did us good, and the next week we were able to return to the farmers market with fresh eyes, happy to take home whatever the farmers had. (Turns out the greens and cucs were still doing well, but the first tomatoes were ready too.)

Ultimately, the thing that supports this loyalty and flexibility and acceptance is a sense of gratitude. Things change when we find the space within ourselves to feel thankful for what the land is providing, even, and perhaps especially, in challenging seasons.

Until next time, take good care, and eat well.


Erin Barnett

From the LocalHarvest Store:

CSAs - they aren't just for summers anymore! The LocalHarvest directory includes more than 1000 CSAs that offer winter shares, some of whom sell these shares through our store or through their own CSAware systems. To see if there's one near you, click here and then enter your zip code to narrow the search.

In many parts of the country, it's time to start planning the fall garden. Running low on seeds for some of your favorite cool season veggies? Seeds for fall garden can be found in plenty in our seed department.

The lavender harvest is in full swing, so now is the perfect time to order this year's crop. LocalHarvest farmers make everything from swags to salve with this marvelous herb. Get yours today.

Slow Money's Third National Gathering

Slow Money is a new kind of social investing for the 21st century. So far, 11 local Slow Money chapters have been formed around the country, connecting investors to small food enterprises and to the soil.

Join this emerging network of thought leaders, investors, donors, entrepreneurs, farmers, and activists for their Third National Gathering October 12-14, 2011 at Fort Mason in San Francisco. More than 1,000 people attended the first two national gatherings - with more than $4.25 million invested in 16 small food enterprises!

LocalHarvest founder Guillermo Payet will be a panelist at this event, and LocalHarvest readers get a 10% registration discount! For details and to register: http://www.slowmoney.org/national-gathering/

Food from the Farm: White Bean Tomato Salad

Once the tomatoes finally come in, tomato salad is my answer to quick summer meals. My favorite version includes white beans. The three best things about this dish are that it is delicious, takes five minutes to make, and is infinitely adaptable. In the version below, I use garlic in the dressing, but shallots are also excellent. If you are new to the kitchen and wanting to try experimenting with recipes, this is a good dish with which to work because it is so forgiving. With good, vine-ripened summer tomatoes, it would be hard to mess up -- but don’t even bother making this with an imitation tomato. You need the real thing, ripe and delicious.