“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” ~ Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
Every summer and fall we visit other farms to harvest fruit: strawberries, blueberries, and apples being at the top of the list.
Someday these will come from our land, but while we can we wait for our young orchard and newly planted berries to bear fruit, we’re not patient enough to keep them out of our diet until that time comes.
So, it’s off to you-pick farms we go (most recently, an apple orchard).
We could just go to the coop or grocery store for apples, but picking them straight from the tree brings so much more: a connection to place, the warmth of our bodies walking up and down rows between trees, the shared experience of picking from the tree and crunching into crisp fruit.
In all my years of growing, I’ve found that food tastes best when we have a connection to it.
But you don’t need to own a farm, like Aldo Leopold suggests, in order to connect with the land and your food.
Here are 5 ways to grow a deeper connection that will feed your body and your spirit:
1. Grow a garden
Growing your own food immediately connects you to the land, and the most local food you can get comes from your own garden.
Don’t have a plot to turn up where you live? Consider joining a community garden, or growing a few crops in containers.
The harvest, no matter how small or large, is worth it. If you have little ones, they’ll find a new love of eating vegetables when you grow them and harvest them together. My earliest memory of liking peas comes from harvesting snap peas at the daycare I went to, and to this day I attribute the wonder of pulling carrots from the garden as the first seed of my desire to grow food.
Winter doesn’t have to stop you from growing. Pea shoots are the perfect crop to grow inside for fresh greens all winter long.
Growing with kids makes gardening even more meaningful—and sometimes a bit more challenging. Get tips on growing with kids here.
2. Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)
CSA is built upon relationships, and though it’s called community supported agriculture, the CSA model truly supports you as a member by supporting your health, respecting your input, and offering a direct connection to the fields. When you buy a share, you become a member of the farm, and directly support the farm’s ability to grow.
We’ve been offering CSA at Good Heart Farmstead since 2013, but if I didn’t run a farm, I’d join a CSA for the connection and fresh harvest.
3. Shop Directly at a Farmers Market or Farm Stand
If you can’t join a CSA, Farmers Markets and Farm Stands give you another way to directly connect with farmers and the food they grow. Markets allow you to ask questions, to sample from many different farms, and to meet up with friends and neighbors as you shop.
Find a local farmers market, farm stand, or CSA farm near you on localharvest.org.
4. Visit Farms
As agritourism grows, more and more farms are opening their fields to the public. Some may have a farm stand on site, others may offer pick-your-own crops, farm tours, and events.
Visiting farms is a great way to connect with the landscape, and to learn more about what it means to be a farmer.
Green Mountain Girls Farm, the first farm I worked on, has beautiful farm stays all year round. Maple Wind Farm offers farm yurt rentals. You can find more Vermont farms to visit, plus many that offer day-trip options, at Dig In VT.
That said, remember to check the visiting hours before you show up—while many farmers love sharing the land with their customers, they also have a lot of work to do in the field, so be respectful of their time and check ahead to find out when the best time to visit is.
4. Eat & Cook Seasonally
Of all the ways to connect with the land and your food, eating and cooking seasonally is the best way to start. You can connect with seasonal foods at local farms, but it’s bringing those crops into the kitchen that really makes the connection last.
Take time to chop, sauté, sizzle, simmer, and stir.
Breathe in the smells as raw ingredients blend and transform into a finished meal. Be present with the nourishment in front of you, and let all of your senses be fed.
What’s your favorite way to connect with your food? Let me know in the comments below, and tell me if you already take these steps, and if not, what steps you’re going to take now.