As interest in local food continues to grow, so does its availability. Producers over the past year have added season-extending structures, such as high tunnels or increased the numbers in their flocks, or both.
While year-round local produce is yet to be seen here, local producers are stretching the season. The skeptical need only look at Eliot Coleman’s “Four Season Harvest,” based on 40 years of growing year-round in Maine, to see that local food can indeed be a 12-month thing.
So what local bounty is available for Thanksgiving tables in the Columbus area? First, pat yourself on the back if you grew any of the produce (fresh or preserved) that you will enjoy at Thanksgiving. From apples to squash to sweet potatoes, our gardens are as local as it gets. And rewarding. Extra points if you gardened or canned with a young person, sharing an important life skill.
Among the farms that answered my call for what’s available, August Rising Acres reports that they have turnips, beets, radishes, carrots, endive, mixed lettuces and herbs. Daily’s Farm Market has squashes, apples, eggs and pies baked to order.
If you want to enjoy one of those local turkeys, make your order by midmonth. Nightfall Farm in Crothersville has pasture-raised turkeys ready for market, with pickup locations in Columbus and Seymour. Why the lead time on ordering? Because these turkeys are still walking around. The farmers process them to your order, leaving time for handling and delivery.
You can always find beef from the Downeys (contact Duck Creek Gardens in Hope), Fleming Family Beef and the Daily’s Farm Market. After Thanksgiving, Bush’s Market will again offer pork and sausage. If a winter farmer’s market seems like a good idea to you, watch for an announcement soon.Also consider Indiana Grown (indianagrown.org) if you are looking for specific items sourced locally. Use the search page to find someone growing what you are after.Crop diversificationProducers or family members looking for crop ideas may want to join the crop diversification conversation. On Dec. 1, Purdue Extension Bartholomew County will host a visit from the University of Kentucky Center for Crop Diversification and Biofuels’ Brett Wolff. Participants will examine crops worth considering for southern Indiana and follow that with a unit on developing a business plan.This will be a great opportunity for those who are deciding the future of a small farm or wanting to diversify some acres. For more information, see extension.purdue.edu/Bartholomew, or call 812-379-1665. Registration is open until Nov. 20.
Feb. 23 will bring a local food summit to our community. Producers, buyers and interested consumers will be invited to consider the future of our local food system, what it might look like and how we get there. The morning will offer presentations from Jodee Ellett, Purdue Extension’s local foods specialist, and Ken Meter of Crossroads Resource Center. The afternoon sessions will give participants a chance to meet others across various “topics tables” to focus on ideas such as a growers’ guild, shared processing, a local foods council or farm-to-school. Organizers hope to identify priorities, next steps and organization. Save the date and watch for more information from Purdue Extension Bartholomew County in the new year.Keeping localIn developing our local food system, we can keep more food dollars circulating in our local economy, promote community resiliency and help to conserve our agricultural lands. While some consider local food to be a fad, I would suggest that it’s essential. Whether preparing food with what’s seasonally available, or being able to grow it, our homes and communities will always need these skills.Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest and a pause for gratitude. I am wishing you the best of all of those things.