Local food resolutions for 2011

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After a long and busy holiday season, it’s a new year, a clean slate, and a new opportunity to improve ourselves and our community. January is the time we reflect and resolve to be better people, inside and out. In the spirit of this sentiment, the following are some of my New Year’s resolutions for local food.

1. I resolve to eat with the seasons. You know that tomatoes are best in the summer, and apples are best in the fall. But did you know that beef and chicken each has its own season? Everything has a time when it’s at its peak. Learn these peak times, and taste the difference.   
2. I resolve to make better use of the seasons’ bounty. It just makes good economic sense: buy when the market is overrun, eat what you can, and save the rest for when supplies are scarce. Can your fruits and vegetables if you like, but I prefer to freeze them — it’s easy, fast, and simple. (Especially tomatoes – no blanching required! Huzzah!) I also love my dehydrator, particularly for apples and peaches.  
3. I resolve to make the farmers’ market part of my grocery shopping circuit. Often, in-season products are less expensive at the farmers’ market than at the grocery store. As an added bonus, you can support a neighbor’s livelihood, keep your dollars in the community, and cultivate a relationship with the person who grew your food.  
4. I resolve to trust my taste buds.  Sure, those perfectly round, perfectly red, unblemished tomatoes at the store look good, but what do they taste like? A neighbor’s freshly picked Black Krim may look a little different, but its flavor cannot be matched.
5. I resolve to try one new food a week.  Alternatively, I will give those foods I have not liked in the past another chance. (Maybe two.) Rutabaga? Kohlrabi? Arugula? Sushi? Turnips? Bring it on. Remember, whatever it is, if it were truly awful, no one would bother to grow it — or prepare it — so someone, somewhere knows how to make it taste delicious. You can, too.         
6. I resolve to grow some of my own food. Not everyone has the time or space to grow a full-sized garden, though that would be awesome, but nearly everyone has space for a potted tomato or string bean plant on the porch or a container of herbs on the kitchen windowsill. Not only will your own homegrown food taste better and save you money on groceries, there is a certain satisfaction in providing for yourself.     
7. I resolve to be more aware of legislative issues affecting my local food supply and the ability of farmers to provide it. This sounds like a bit of a killjoy, and it can be. But the Farm Bill and Food Safety bills involve more than just farmers and processing plant workers — they affect everyone who eats. If it’s important to you to protect local farms and your local food supply, you owe it to yourself and your community to be aware of legislation that influences growers’ ability to put food on your table. There has never been a better time to get involved and let your elected officials know how you feel about local food. A good place to start is the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.       
8. I resolve to learn where my food comes from. Awareness is the first step to enlightenment. While this would be a simple exercise if you grew all your own food or bought it all from your neighbors, in truth much of what we eat comes from somewhere else — usually somewhere far away. Learn where these places are. Learn the reality of the people who grow, harvest, process, and transport your food. Learn the reality of the animals and animal products you eat. Then ask, am I OK with this? If the answer is no, learn about your options. They exist.    
We’ll see how well I can keep my New Year’s resolutions in the months ahead. If they seem a bit too optimistic for you, remember that if everyone does a little, we can accomplish a lot. Here’s to a happy, healthy, locally-grown New Year!

Allison Mazan is an apprentice farmer in San Antonio, N.M. Originally from Illinois, she moved here to follow her dreams of practicing sustainable, community-building agriculture.