There’s a general estimate (calculated in 2001 by an Iowa State University study) that American produce travels, on average, 1,500 miles to get from a farm to a grocery store to your plate compared to traveling only 44.6 miles if it’s locally grown and purchased. When adding in the cost of labor, travel, fossil fuel emissions and preservatives, the logical conclusion is that eating local is better for you, the environment and the quality of your food.
Becoming more involved and educated regarding where your food originates is simple. It can be fairly effortless — you could start buying fresh eggs from your neighborhood farmers market — or more labor intensive — like growing your own vegetables. Here are some easy steps to get you started.
Support Local Farmers
As previously mentioned, buying local helps cut down on carbon emissions and ensures you get the freshest, seasonal produce. You can find many local Cincinnati-area farmers selling their goods at rotating farmers markets (see Guide To Going Green for dates and locations), and many also offer the option to pick up produce directly from the farm or participate in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a membership-based program that provides produce throughout the farming season. Here are some local, green-minded farmers. Find a bigger list inside the CORV Eat Local and Sustainable Guide inserted in this issue.
Carriage House Farm: A North Bend family farm based on polyculture and sustainability. Their chemical-free fresh vegetables, herbs, honey and grain are available at a variety of retailers (Whole Foods, Remke, Picnic & Pantry, Park + Vine), locally owned restaurants (Local 127, Orchids) and farmers markets. carriagehousefarmllc.comFinn Meadows Farm: The team at Finn Meadows Farm plant, cultivate and harvest most of their veggies by hand and rotationally graze their livestockfinnmeadowsfarm.com
Gorman Heritage Farm: A working farm and educational center in Evendale that offers traditional and unique seasonal produce; native flowers; and humanely raised turkey, beef, chicken and pork — all packed at custom processors who respect the animals. While not a certified organic farm, they operate in the spirit of sustainable food production. Farm store open during normal business hours. gormanfarm.org
Mud Foot Farm: Certified naturally grown produce, grass-only Suffolk sheep, free-range Muscovy ducks, pastured broilers, free-range eggs as well as pasture-raised lamb, duck and chicken. In addition to their produce, they also offer pawpaw fruit in season. Find them at the Northside Farmers Market. 513-797-0973
Napoleon Ridge Farm & Nature Center: A diversified sustainable Northern Kentucky farm offering all-natural fruits, veggies, herbs and free-range chicken, pigs, goats and other animals. It provides meat and produce to local restaurants as well as home cooks through the Napoleon Grocery and farmers markets. napoleonridgefarm.com
Shagbark Farm: The Adams County farm follows organic, sustainable farming techniques that rely on natural methods: composting, companion planting, weed burning and integrated pest management. They currently offer red raspberries, hickory syrup, preserved culinary and medicinal herbs and wild edibles foraged from the property via direct consumer contact at farmers markets. shagbarkfarmohio.com
Turner Farm: Using traditional draft animals, the produce and flowers from this 1800s farm are certified organic and their animals (pigs, chickens, sheep) are free to roam. Produce available via the Madeira Farmers Market, a CSA or the Turner Farm Market. turnerfarm.org
Green BEAN Delivery: A year-round food delivery service bringing the freshest locally grown and organic produce and groceries directly to your door on a membership basis. greenbeandelivery.com
Grow Your Own
If you’ve never planted your own vegetable garden, now is the time to try. Instead of tackling the whole backyard DIY raised-garden-bed-style, start small and do some container gardening; it’s an easy way to grow a manageable amount of produce no matter your space constraints. While you can get creative with your containers, opt for a non-porous or semi-porous pot with drain holes to start (seed packets will list what size pot you need), and fill it with potting soil. Some plants are easier to grow from seeds than others, and you can always buy starter plants. (The Findlay Market weekend farmers market generally has a great selection of sprouted plants.) Easy plants to grow in containers include herbs, lettuce, green beans, tomatoes, peas, radishes, cabbage, spinach, cucumber and zucchini. Just plant, harvest and eat.
At the most basic level, composting adheres to all tenets of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” model: It reduces the amount of organic waste entering landfills and recycles it into a reusable fertilizer and soil conditioner. When organic waste is broken down underground in landfills, without the presence of oxygen, it releases methane, an incredibly potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. The atmospheric levels of methane have more than doubled since the 18th century, and landfills are the second largest man-made source of methane in America. Compost piles use aerobic decomposition, which releases carbon dioxide instead of methane. To make an easy compost bin, get a 32-gallon, plastic trashcan with a locking lid and a wooden plant dolly. Use a drill to poke about 20-25 holes in the side and top of the trash can for ventilation. Attach the bottom of the trash can to the wooden stand with screws and drill a few more holes in the bottom of the can for drainage. Add organic waste material, adjusting the levels of green, nitrogen-rich components (wet kitchen scraps, fresh grass) and brown, carbon-rich items (dry leaves, sawdust) in order to create an ideal decomp situation. If your pile is slimy and smells rotten, add more brown. If your compost is going too slow, add more green. Eventually with time, water, heat and oxygen (note: turn your compost every couple days), you’ll have your very own fertilizer to add to your garden.
Other ideas for more advanced green projects include creating your own rain barrel in order to collect and store rainwater runoff from the roof or gutter. Using this reservoir to water plants saves money — garden irrigation accounts for 40 percent of residential water use during the summer, about 1,300 gallons per home — and reduces the flow of contaminated runoff. Or, if you’re feeling super dedicated, you could raise some backyard chickens and harvest your own eggs. Or not.