Local red potatoes provide antioxidant protection and the complex carbohydrates much needed for energy in a cold climate.© Alexandra Gross
Cheating the System
There are some obvious disadvantages to living in New England and going local in the winter. Add to that list what some might find restrictive, my vegan diet, which eliminates locally sourced diary, eggs and meat from the menu options. Once the ground freezes, one can only hang on to the colors, smells and flavors of the growing season. I am glad I have vivid memories of working on an organic farm in the summer and harvesting (and eating) the overabundance of buttery spring spinach and the baskets full of heirloom tomatoes to get me through these cold months.
I can’t complain all that much about access to food; I work at a farmers" market on Saturdays and stock up on supplies. I have managed to eat really well and not jeopardize my health, and, in the process, save money and considerably reduce my overall waste output. Celeriac, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, mushrooms, artisan breads, tofu made in-state and dwindling stocks of frozen and canned goods have been my saviors, but I do miss green leafy vegetables. With the help of organic hydroponic growers who sell at local markets, I’ve satisfied this urge, but I do so sparingly.
To me, eating hydroponic greens feels somewhat like cheating, and many would agree. The debate over hydroponic growing is mixed, varying from environmental and ethical standpoints. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in nutrient-rich water solutions. The use of greenhouses for this type of cultivation brings up issues of energy costs and use. Other debates concern the validity of the organic certification for hydroponic growing based on the elimination of soil and land use. Yet, high crop yields, effective water-saving measures and prevention of fertilizer run-off make hydroponic greens an attractive option during the winter months.
Surviving the Winter
As of February, eating local in the winter has proven challenging. But while the range and choices of winter foods may not be as varied as during harvest months, there is still delicious food out there from local farmers. For omnivores, your diet will be more varied than mine, but vegetarians and vegans can still survive as locavores. March, however, may be a different story; it’s a fickle month dotted with the hints of spring but the threat of winter not far behind. I"ll tackle that when I get there.
With any lifestyle decision you make, it comes down to personal choice and the ethics behind that decision. Food is not just something you eat; behind that potato, celery root and pepper jelly are the people, land and animals that provided that subsistence for you. More than that, food has the power to unite people and establish meaningful, long-lasting relations.
If you are interested in "going local," check out the following links to see where you can get local food in your area:
CONTACT: Food Routes; Local Harvest; Sustainable Table; U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Marketing Service
ALEXANDRA GROSS is an editorial intern at E.