Today is officially the first day of fall, and as much as I miss long days at the beach and harbor cruises, I feel relieved. Summer is fun. Too much fun. My favorite time of year is fall, when the light turns golden and the air gets cool and the visitors have dwindled down.
As the days get shorter, I also become more interested in cooking; summer’s heat tends to keep me out of the kitchen. I’m not one of those pumpkin spice people, though. Instead, as tomato season wanes, I find myself drawn to rich butternut squashes and salty baked kale. And what’s better than a crisp Jonagold apple straight off the tree? Plus, September brings us back to months that end in “r” – and that means four straight months of oyster season.
Ultimately, fall means harvest – and that’s the best time to eat as much local food as possible.
With that in mind, Aquidneck Community Table is once again launching its Food Challenge. This year, from September 23–29, the organization challenges islanders to eat only food grown, raised, or caught in Rhode Island, or, for the truly dedicated, here on Aquidneck Island. (If either of those seem too daunting, consider including just one local item per meal.)
Because I’ll be out of town next week – which would make the challenge especially difficult – I’m not participating, but I’ve gone hyperlocavore before. It’s not easy, but it is doable, especially at this bountiful time of year. I’ve found that the challenge is more behavioral than anything – there are plenty of local farms and food. Yes, you’ll have to say buh-bye to staples such as coffee, olive oil, and bread if you go whole hog. And you might have to cut down on meat to stay on budget. But it’s how I shop more than what I shop for that tends to trip me up. There can be no running into Ash Mart to grab a Kind bar for lunch. A rotisserie chicken from the grocery store isn’t going to cut it for dinner. And so long, last-minute call to Pasta Beach. You will have to plan ahead – and at that, I suck.
Another pain point hits the pocketbook. Buying only local foods can also get expensive. (More on solving that below.) So I’m really glad to see that ACT continues working to provide equitable access. This year, those eligible for SNAP/EBT will get a 40 percent bonus for the purchase of fresh fruits and veggies. That’s doubly beneficial when you consider that spending locally also means keeping our dollars circulating in own community, rather than going off to some far flung corporate headquarters. In fact, ACT estimates that sales at the Aquidneck Growers’ Markets keep up to $2 million in the regional economy each year. That’s not small potatoes.
Like so many things, getting started really is the hardest part of eating local. ACT offers resources, tips, and recipes on their website. I’ve also found that knowing where to shop helps. I love the Aquidneck Growers’ Markets, but I can’t always get to them and sometimes I need to stretch my grocery dollars a little further. ACT offers a good food map that includes some pop-up farmers’ markets I didn’t know about. Below, I’ve also listed additional places to buy local produce, dairy, eggs, and meat.
Eating local reduces the carbon impact of our food, connects us to the land, and tastes delicious. Realistically, life is busy and most of us don’t have time to be – or don’t want to be – beholden to the stove. (Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that prepared and processed foods are what got women out of the kitchen.) So don’t feel terrible if you fall off the local-food wagon. This is an experiment designed to help you gain insight into, respect for, and knowledge about our local food system. At the end of the week, ask yourself what would be a reasonable balance of local and other foods for you and your family. Then start incorporating them into your regular shopping routine and menu – even when you’re eating out. You’ll be amazed at everything our island has to offer once you start thinking local-first. So eat up, and enjoy the bounty.
Where to shop for local food in Newport
Where to shop for local food in Middletown
Simmons Organic Farm
Sweet Berry Farm
Rocky Brook Orchard
Farm stand at trolley parking lot, corner of East Main Road and Aquidneck Avenue (across from Dunkin’ Donuts)
Farm stand at the intersection of Valley Road and Green End Avenue
Farm stand on Turner Road
Where to shop for local food in Portsmouth
Munroe Dairy (for Rhode Island–wide foods)
You might also like:
6 Year Round Farm Stands Selling Eggs, Meat, and More
Visit our Eat Local page fore more ideas and recipes
Pond to Plate Perfection at Walrus and Carpenter Oysters’ Farm Dinner
5 Farm Stands to Hit up in Between Farmers’ Markets
Do you have a farm stand or other favorite spot for local food that we didn’t mention here? Let us know in the comments.