Gardeners grow vegetables for a variety of reasons, including the desire for safe and healthy food, exercise, beautification, learning new things, meeting new people, making some extra money or saving some money, as well as for basic enjoyment.
In the same way that gardening fulfills many needs, there is a strong interest in local foods for a number of reasons that include nutrition and health, food safety, the environment, economics, and enjoyment and taste. For most vegetable gardeners, local food is as close as the yard or community garden plot. But what about the produce and food that is not grown in the garden? What does "local" mean when talking about food?
There is no specific definition for "local" when describing foods but some of the trends include purchasing food grown within a geographical area or mileage area or foods grown within the state or bordering states.
Thomas Vilsak, Secretary of Agriculture recognized National Farmers Market Week from Aug. 5-11 and noted that "farmers markets play a key role in developing local and regional food systems that support the sustainability of family farms, revitalize communities, and provide opportunities for farmers and consumers to interact."
From Aug. 11 to Aug. 19 different organizations across Ohio are acknowledging Local Foods Week. Some general ideas to celebrate include eating at a restaurant that serves local foods, trying out a new farmers market, touring or visiting a local community garden and planting some fall vegetable seeds.
What better way for gardeners to celebrate local foods week? Plant some more vegetable seeds!
Remember, many cool-season crops that grow well in the spring but do not like the long hot summer days also grow well during the fall and can withstand a light frost at the beginning or end of the traditional growing season. Look for varieties of vegetables that have shorter days to maturity. Some of the vegetable seeds that can be planted through August include collards, lettuce, mustard greens, radishes and spinach.
A potential challenge for a fall planting is that vegetable seeds and transplants will not be as readily available at stores now compared to April and May when more people are in the habit of planting.
Use any seeds left from this spring or ask for vegetable seeds at your favorite garden supply store.
One of the main reasons to discuss and focus on local foods is to help people connect with their food whether they are growing it themselves, purchasing directly from a farmer or supporting businesses that sell local food. One of the most basic and personal reasons to advocate for local foods is summed up in a question like, "Have you tasted a fresh, vine-ripened tomato straight from the garden?"
Because it is so fresh, plucked at the peak of ripeness and has been watched, tended, and maybe even babied since the last frost in the spring, it is almost unfair to compare it to an anonymous fruit that was grown far away and shipped to a nearby produce shelf.
Sometimes vegetable gardeners face another challenge -- too much of certain crops. If you are overrun with any produce try a few techniques: find new recipes to enjoy it in more ways, share the extra with family and friends or a local food pantry or soup kitchen or find some ways to preserve it for the winter whether that is canning, freezing, or drying.
"From Plant to Plate" at lucas.osu.edu offers tips and suggestions for the growing season from start to finish, to enjoy and promote eating local produce.
Patrice Powers-Barker, is an OSU Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences.