Winter is coming…what do we eat?
As the Kentucky growing season winds to a close, the taste of those spring strawberries and hot summer peppers will soon be a distant memory. Some of us have put up some of our food in the form of pickled okra, naturally-fermented beet juice (kvass), and frozen blanched greens. But for all our shareholders and farmers, the approach of the colder fall weather also signals the end of a 22-week local food access extravaganza. Some of our higher income shareholders can easily access fresh conventionally-grown produce at their neighborhood supermarket. But for others, the road to keeping their diet rich with fresh food is rocky and often extremely frustrating and even dangerous.
“The only thing you can do is to go to ValuMarket, WalMart or Krogers. I will not be able to get organic vegetables. It is out of my price range, remarked Old Louisville Fresh Stop Market site leader and farmer liaison. “I usually buy things that I know are going to last that I can make soup or stews out of, like carrots, potatoes and cabbage. Something that will go a long way. Or vegetarian chili. But since fresh tomatoes in the winter taste like cardboard I’ll probably use canned.”
Gendler Grapevine Fresh Stop Market @ The J “day of” and outreach leader Melva Smith said, “I’ll probably get a lot of my vegetables frozen because it is cheaper. I can’t buy the fresh from Krogers. So I’ll buy mixed vegetables and frozen broccoli from Costco. I’ll miss getting my fresh greens. I wish we could get home canned veggies that are put up by our farmers during the winter.”
But what do farmers eat during the winter? According to Ben Abell from Rootbound Farm, “We are able to have enough to do a lot of canning. We put tomatoes away. We also eat a lot of the storage crops we hang onto like potatoes, turnips, winter squashes. We usually eat out of the field until the end of December, at least until we get a really hard freeze. Then after that, we hunker down as long as we can and feel miserable! But Bree loves salad. So when we get desperate enough we will either try to purchase lettuce locally or head to Costco for the 5 lb. organic California lettuce clamshell. There are so many problems with the industrial food system. But until we get more storage for root crops, more high tunnels, it [the existence of this system] can be a stepping stone for us.”
High or Polytunnels are typically made from z35 Steel and covered in polythene, usually semi-circular, square or elongated in shape. The interior heats up because incoming solar radiation from the sun warms plants, soil, and other things inside the building faster than heat can escape the structure. Air warmed by the heat from hot interior surfaces is retained in the building by the roof and wall. High tunnels have been used to grow food in the winter in temperate climates for many years worldwide, but in the United States, the utilization of high tunnel technology for the production of horticultural crops is a relatively recent phenomenon.
New Roots director Karyn Moskowitz visited south Korea in May 2015 as part of her Community Foundation of Louisville Alden Fellowship and saw firsthand how a collective vision of year-round sustainable agriculture has made local food access a full-time reality. “South Koreans eat a lot of vegetables with every meal, both fresh and naturally-fermented and pickled. The Korean Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) has invested large funds (subsidies) in the development of greenhouses and high tunnels so Korean farmers can farm and supply consumers with vegetables year-round.”
So what can we do as a collective community to help our shareholders keep eating their veggies?
Barbra offered an idea, “Food banks are great but then you don’t really get to pick out what you need. A lot of stuff they give I don’t eat, like canned fruit and cereal. Trader Joe’s, Kroger or Costco card donations would be a great idea to help some families get through the winter. Families can bring cards to the November 16th Thanksgiving Farmer Appreciation dinner and New Roots can donate them to families who need them.”
New Roots is searching for other ideas from our shareholders for how we can come together to help our shareholders who will face struggles this winter accessing fresh food. Please send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.