Sunday, June 19, 2011

Local Foods at the Braintree Farmers Market

Angela Cavanaugh gets her CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery every week from The Farmer's Garden.

by Deanna Levanti

As the local and organic food movement gains momentum, the debate against conventional agriculture is heard for the first time by more and more people.  Many people don’t really see what the fuss is all about, and are reluctant to challenge the food system as we know it. This is understandable, since it would be a challenge to much of life as we know.  Life is complicated enough without having to analyze and change how we shop, what we eat, where we eat, and how we cook right?  Believe me, I wish I could just walk into the grocery store and not think about every detail of every item I purchase…life would be much easier if I could just go with the flow, add water, shake, bake, and eat it up.  But I can’t.  I want to know where it’s from, who grew it, whether they sprayed it, what it was eating, what they injected it with.  I want to know how their methods are affecting the surrounding environment and community.  The truth is that I simply don’t trust agribusiness to grow a product that meets my food quality standards.  I know that the bottom line encourages mass production, over-crowding, and overall excessive pressure on the natural growing processes of both plants and animals.  However, rather than trying to turn my friends on to this movement by overwhelming them with rants about everything that’s wrong with our industrial global food system, I prefer to turn them on to something better by showing them what’s right with our lovely local food system.  
One of my favorite ways of doing this, and probably the most effective, is to let them find out for themselves how wonderful food is that came fresh from the farm.  For some people, snapping into a freshly dug carrot, tasting that sweet tenderness that could only exist in a carrot just pulled up from the soil--that is the way to turn them on.  The joys of crunching into a fresh snap pea is the hook for those with a sweet-veggie tooth, or for those who like spice, give ‘em a hot pepper plucked right off the bush, and watch their faces turn red with delight after adding it to their first recipe.  Traditional cookers will be in awe when they smell the aroma and see the juiciness of freshly cured garlic…pungent and wonderful as it was meant to be.  For others, they marvel at the colors and flavors of an heirloom tomato…they never knew tomatoes could be so vibrant and bursting with flavor!  If a friend is not a veggie lover, I skip these and move right to the best secret weapon an organic farmer ever had--the awakening burst of flavor packed into a perfectly ripe strawberry…simply irresistible, undeniable, and unforgettable.
Eating is one way of experiencing things first-hand, giving people a personal introduction to local foods.  Another great way to make this connection for people is to let them actually use their hands and get a feel for what small-scale farming is all about.  Many people are interested to know how their food is grown, and are eager to get out to the farm to check it out.  Once there, they can see plants growing from seed in a greenhouse, watch farmers transplant these into the fields, and witness the crops being harvested.  Some farms work with volunteers as well, giving people the opportunity to help grow their own food.  Working on a farm is extremely hard work, but it is also extremely rewarding and lots of fun--when is playing in the dirt not fun?!
Once people realize the difference between fresh and local, and industrial and global, they will wonder why we let ourselves eat such poor specimens of produce and meat for so long!  They will know what industrial agriculture is missing, because they will have experienced it first-hand.  Local growers of fruits, vegetables, and meats are increasingly gaining visibility in the market.  Once people get a taste for their superb products, they will soon be joining the mounting demand for real, good food.  And that is my favorite strategy for transforming our food system into something better.  Try it out!
For fresh local produce, meats, cheeses, honey and much more visit the Braintree Farmers Market every Saturday from 9 to 1, rain or shine, at the Braintree Town Hall Mall, One JFK Memorial Dr. Braintree, MA. For more information visit our website at

Deanna Levanti works for Holly Hill Farm in Cohasset. Her mother, Susan Ryan, is a Volunteer Coordinator for the Braintree Farmers Market. To sign up as a volunteer at the market simply go to our website.

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