We’ve given it a good shot. But at this point in the ice and snow, my family’s locavore enthusiasm has dwindled: we’ve got a bushel box of (Seekonk) butternut squash that replenishes itself overnight, a case of applesauce made by (Providence) at-risk teens, and five frozen whole (Saunderstown) chickens. That’s all fine stuff, but it no longer puts a twinkle in my eye. Sometimes I fantasize that it will all be stolen by a snobby burglar while I’m out buying Happy Meals and Capri Suns.
The cure for wintertime locavore malaise, I’ve heard, is planning a family garden. The enthusiastic gardeners in my life began marking their White Flower Farm catalogs and making cute little seedling pots out of newspapers at the first sign of frost. I don’t like gardening: it’s the dirt. But I like free food, so I need a garden that requires very little touching of dirt. Last year this strategy worked perfectly. Loads of arugula, kale, herbs, and strawberries grew happily under our neglectful watch. Just like children in a sunlit handbook on wholesome living, my sons went into the garden daily to pick and eat strawberries. As if on cue, one boy even commented, “These just taste so much more strawberry flavored than the ones we buy.”
Also as if on cue, in deepest winter this new gardening book arrived: From Seed to Skillet. It’s aimed at home gardeners who want stuff to eat. Rich with photographs on that great-feeling fine, matte paper, this book breaks down all aspects of gardening (including planning a garden, what can spend a lifetime in a pot, and how to know when compost is ready) into simple steps, and meets the novice eye to eye: lettuce “almost inevitably leads to success.” There’s also pragmatic yet heart-swelling inspiration to get kids into the garden. Children “don’t get much of a chance to feel powerful in the world,” and a garden provides colorful, living proof that actions lead to results. At the end of this just-right book are recipes: the blueberry slump and sweet potato biscuits make me think I might perhaps learn to do some actual gardening.
For those of us who will surely need assistance to round out our own crops, or who don’t garden at all, it’s time to start researching and signing up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) plan. CSAs put money in the hands of farmers in time to get the coming year’s crops started. You pay a chunk of money now and are paid back in bountiful produce late spring through the fall. Additionally, your family becomes, to some extent, part of the farm. Some CSA shares offer the opportunity to visit or pitch in on the farm. Others offer members dibs on the first tomatoes or the tiniest fingerling potatoes.
Kidoinfo has a list of local CSAs to help you find a plan that matches your family’s food budget and location. Does your family have a favorite farmer or Rhode Island vegetable? Please share your family’s experience by posting a review.
Check the Farm Fresh RI website to learn more about the Rhode Island farming community, and for more local inspiration, visit the Southside Community Land Trust’s blog. Mark your gardening calendar for SCLT’s May 14th plant sale and its Urban Agriculture Spring Kickoff (featuring a seed swap, food growing workshops, food to eat, and music) on Saturday, February 26th!
From Seed to Skillet by Jimmy Williams and Susan Heeger
2010 by Chronicle Books, $30
Editor’s note: Chronicle Books sent a review copy for our consideration. Kidoinfo never accepts payment for reviews.