The new edition of Seacoast Harvest, Seacoast Eat Local’s annual guide to local food, has arrived! Many thanks to our sponsors for their continuing support, and to our volunteers who gave so generously of their time to help make this happen.
From its beginnings as a simple folded black and white hand-out, Seacoast Harvest has grown to 32 pages (up from last year’s 28), and includes listings for 176 farms (up from 157), and 31 summer farmers markets (up from 25). This year we had to make room to list the 8 indoor winter markets that now make it possible for us to eat local all year round. The photograph of those luscious local greens looking so sprightly on the cover? Taken during a snow-covered day in February at one of our own Winter Farmers’ Markets.
In this excerpt from Seacoast Harvest, Erin Ehlers, Project Coordinator, gives an overview of the state of local food here on the Seacoast:
The next step: local food for everyone
As we publish Seacoast Harvest 2011 we are celebrating our fifth year of this print and online listing of farms, farmers’ markets, and inspiration for eating locally. Seacoast Harvest is a document of true community collaboration: farmers grow beautiful food, our volunteer-researchers collect their information, our sponsors enable us to print the guide, and consumers support the growers of these local and delicious foods.
Local food is an experience in learning how our meals are grown and raised, offering personal engagement with the producers of our food, and connecting our hearts, souls, and palates to the Seacoast. But not everyone can afford this experience.
We know that local food costs more. And we know why it does. When you choose to buy from a local grower you are supporting fair wages for farm employees. You are paying for the maintenance of open space in an area where land is at a premium. You are purchasing food that has been grown or raised safely, healthfully, ecologically, and respectfully. Food raised in this conscious manner costs more than conventional methods, but when higher costs exclude people in our community, we need to create ways to make the benefits of local food available to everyone.
SNAP and Debit at the markets: SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is the federal government’s electronic food assistance program. When the federal government changed from paper food stamps to an electronic system, recipients could no longer use their benefits at farmers’ markets. For a market to be able to serve these consumers an electronic processing machine is needed. This system is the same as an EBT (Electronic Balance Transfer). When farmers’ markets have one of these systems, they are able to process SNAP transactions, as well as service customers who need cash for purchases. With an electronic system, farmers can increase sales to a wider audience and consumers are able to access their accounts for purchasing. For more information, turn to page 6 and learn how Seacoast Eat Local is working to bring SNAP to the markets this year!
Additional efforts to expose a broader population to the benefits of local, healthy foods comes from local food pantries that accept fresh food. More than ever people in our communities are depending on area food pantries to feed their families. Many food pantries have invested in refrigeration so that they are now able to accept fresh food donations. At each of our winter farmers’ markets, food donation tables were piled high with fresh produce. The option to donate healthy, local food offers an inspiring way to contribute to the important service of food pantries: farmers can donate some of their bumper crop; buying clubs can collectively chip-in to make purchases for a pantry; and individual gardeners can bring in produce when their gardens are overfl owing. Turn to page 13 for a list of pantries that accept fresh food!
We hope that you use Seacoast Harvest 2011 as your guide to all the flavors and bounty that the Seacoast’s agriculture has to offer.
Make sure to pick up your own copy of Seacoast Harvest, now available at Seacoast area farms, farmers’ markets and farm stands, or use our online searchable database to find what’s available nearest you.