By Jennifer BB
It would be an understatement to say that this year's May Eat Local Challenge and last year's, which took place in August, were miles apart--literally. Here in the Northeast (upstate New York to be exact) the farmers markets are just beginning to expand their produce offerings beyond spring onions, pea shoots, lettuce mix and seedlings for transplant. The chickens on offer are growing from young spring chickens into broilers, Meanwhile the dairy products--milk, butter, cheeses, yogurt--and local granola, maple syrup, honey, and jams are as plentiful as ever. All the same, the challenge to eat locally is just beginning. Eating within our foodshed was definitely more challenging this early in the season but not impossible. We are ready for June.
In the month of June alone we will look forward to adding local strawberries, more greens, garlic scapes, lettuces and herbs to the market stalls. Eating locally will become a bit easier as the produce becomes more plentiful.
Here in Syracuse, we decided to use this time of transition as an excuse to gather at a garden behind someone's home and give thanks for the bounty we've so far enjoyed and the bounty we anticipate. We said words of thanks and blessed the garden with holy water (being an Episcopal Priest comes in handy for this kind of thing). Most of us had brought along a seedling, packet of seeds or transplant that we hoped to put in the ground this week and we blessed them as well. Afterwards, we enjoyed a selection of local New York cheeses and Finger Lakes Wines and discussed our vegetable gardening techniques, politics of food--both here and abroad--and generally had a great time. At the end of the evening, our hosts picked lettuces from their garden and gave them away as a parting gift.
Now, the blessing and holy water thing may not be everyone's cup of tea but gathering with friends new and old while celebrating local food and teaching one another about growing your own seems like a wonderful way to bring the Eat Local Challenge home. We'll probably have another gathering in the fall when we begin to think about putting the gardens to bed, saving seeds, and planning for the 2007 season. For now, though, Bring June On! We're ready!
Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows writes Cookin' in the 'Cuse, a blog about good food and sustainable living in Syracuse and Central New York.