I became passionate about eating locally five years ago, thanks to Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. This bookcame into my life just after moving from Adams Morgan to Reston for a fundraising job (all the better to visit local farm stands and wineries!), and turned me on to the issues of sustainable agriculture. After years of living in DC, I’ve really grown to love Virginia…the authentic sense of place, rich history, and gorgeous rural landscapes are all within minutes of my front door! And I know that eating locally helps to preserve the small-farm heritage I love so much. So now I’m a year-round farmer’s market shopper and beginning gardener, sharing a community garden plot with a friend.
Like so many of us in the DC area, I love the farmer’s market scene…the friendly bustle, the generous tastings, running into friends and neighbors, meeting the farmers, and of course buying incredibly fresh and healthy food at its peak. I look forward to making this blog an upbeat place for farmer’s market shoppers to feed their local food enthusiasm.
Growing up, I was always interested in animals and growing things and I harbored an inner desire in being a farmer. But I put this away, as all my perceptions of how one did farming or became a farmer, combined with the gloomy economic future of the family farm discouraged me. My interest for farming never died; rather, it combined with other passions in local historic preservation, preserving the rural landscape and its culture, and keeping economies local, not global.
I saw this irony in my family’s town in West Virginia, known as the poultry growing capital of the state, where residents cannot buy one of the thousands of locally grown chickens; instead, they must buy one from a national grocery chain outlet that is shipped from Georgia. The question always haunted me: in a place surrounded by farms, how come we are still buying food that is shipped in and of poor quality? And why don’t people seem to make the connection that buying local food will support their community? Years of work for the National Trust for Historic Preservation brought me in to contact with communities that were successful in keeping their historic character and local small town businesses through a coordinated effort, driven by peoples’ interest to ‘support local.’ I always thought, why couldn’t we do the same for small farmers?
Now as I explore locally sustainable farming, food and economies, I am surprised to find a diversity of people, organizations, solutions and economic models that are already doing that – they are changing the way people think about how they get their food and the role of local farms. The wide scope of people involved – from farmers, to businesses, to neighborhood activists – are all seeing things differently, putting passion and voice into small scale community-based farm techniques that are highly applicable to this region. They are seeing niches and possibilities in vacant lots, sustainable farming practices, and especially the tremendously rich potential for the consumer market here with area residents’ innate interest to support local and organic food.
Admiration for this group led me on a journey of exploration to learn as much as possible about this dynamic, emerging field which brings together so many sectors of society. As I take a sabbatical from my nonprofit career to explore where the next chapter of my life may take me within the local foods movement, I have no idea where my bus will stop. However, in this blog with Martina, I look forward to discovering, promoting and celebrating this local food landscape and we hope you enjoy the same journey as well.