Connecting Community to a Local Food System
Stacey Budd, local food activity and New Leaf Administrator
As the yellow school buses take their summer pause, vibrant greens, blues, purples and reds are returning to our farmers markets – and our dinner plates. Our local food farms are bursting with life and there is a bustling energy around food. Shoppers at local farmers markets and participants in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are happily gobbling up asparagus, radishes and delightful strawberries – a welcome respite from the root vegetables that dominate local food in the winter.
There are many reasons for adding more locally grown produce to your food repertoire. Local food is healthy for our environment, our economy, and our community. And when it comes to the freshness and flavor and how it nourishes our body, local goodies win food lovers over every time.
Strolling one of our many farmers markets, visiting a local farm or placing an order through the Friends & Farmers Online Market, you are receiving produce that was harvested just 48 hours earlier. Local farmers harvest their fruits and vegetables at their peak, allowing the nutrients to be readily available for your consumption. You are also witness to the diversity of crops that small family farmers choose to grow for the scrumptious flavor and not for the durability of travel.
By making a choice to consume locally grown produce, you're also eating in tune with the seasons. All it takes is a few small preservation tips for future enjoyment. Now is a great time to pickle those last remaining asparagus stalks and freeze the U-pick strawberries destined for your winter strawberry yogurt smoothies.
We all know that eating more fresh fruits and vegetables are good for our health and vibrancy. So is the diversity of foods we put into our bodies. Like the rich ecosystems our sustainable farmers develop for their fields, a variety of whole foods offer the best nutrient output. Explore meal planning with the intention of incorporating a rainbow of colors into your daily food consumption. As the growing season blooms, this challenge is less daunting with tomatoes, blueberries, summer squash and green beans on the horizon. There are many resources to help you navigate the wealth of our local food system. Seasonal cookbooks and online blogs are great, but consider asking a farmer their favorite way to prepare that kohlrabi, turnip or bok choy. They may even share with you that “secret” family recipe that has been passed down for generations.
There are faces and stories and passions behind our local food system. Connecting the dots between the land, the growers and the eaters can help us build a stronger, healthier community through good food for all. Friends & Farmers Cooperative is working to facilitate those connection by creating a community-owned grocery store specializing in local, sustainably produced products. Part of the co-op's mission is to inspire healthy eating through education and outreach.
For further information on area farmers markets and CSA shares, go to www.buylocalpa.org
For more about the Friends & Farmers Cooperative and their Online Market, visit
Stacey Budd is a resident of the State College area, living in Pleasant Gap. She is the outreach coordinator for the Friends & Farmers Cooperative - working to share its vision with the community and build its membership base. When not out in the community delighting in conversation and share some recipes, you will find her in her backyard converting lawn to more raised beds for edibles to grow.