One of the great fringe benefits to living in North Carolina is the fact that pretty much everything grows here, and in spite of what you may have heard about hog lagoons, we really do have a booming (non-livestock) agriculture business here in the north. Since we moved here in 2000, we've spent from May-October visiting the NC state farmer's market (it's freaking HUGE!) almost every weekend. It's where I get my strawberries and blueberries for jam-making, and the only place that has eggplant I'll actually eat (and 8 or 10 varieties of it). They have dozens of different kinds of everything. Corn picked within the hour, $5 for a big paper grocery bag full. Fresh baked pies, fresh goat's milk cheese. And then there's the peanut guy. He always has boiled peanuts and he always flirts and he has about 4 teeth and I love him.
But since e-baby was born, we've been to the farmer's market maybe 4 times. It means that the last 2 years' jam were made with non-local berries from the grocery store, and our veggies were waxy, shipped in from other states, and sometimes other countries. That won't do.
Fast-forward to last fall. Here in the woods, everyone knows everyone and one of the neighbors wanted to get a group of us in on a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm. With a CSA, you buy a share of a local farm and everyone takes their share of the produce for 6 months. If it's a good growing year, you have lots of goodies. If it's a crappy year, you don't get so much. It's still cheaper than what I spend on pproduce at the grocery store by a LONG stretch. Another neighbor wanted to learn about sustainable farming, so he took an internship at a local organic-growing farm, and so choosing the farm was a no-brainer. I still didn't know what I'll do with radishes or beets or arugula, but all the other stuff we'll get is going to be great.
Today was our first shipment. It's early days, so all we got was lettuce, greens of unknown origin, and strawberries. We also got arugula flowers-- the crop bolted in the recent hot weather, but the flowers are sweet and nutty. Perfect on a salad. I had lettuce wraps for dinner. The lettuce was as good as any tortilla I've ever had.
The coolest thing is that e-baby loved all of it. Normally she dislikes strawberries. But who can blame her-- they have to get here from Florida or California, so of course they taste like crap. But local, organic strawberries picked this morning? Oh yeah-- that rocks her world. So does red leaf lettuce dipped in ranch dressing.