The Sustainable Food Budget Challenge starts in a few days and I wanted to clarify a bit what I mean by eating sustainably for the month.
First off, one thing that people seem to be getting hung up on is the idea that you have to eat local only during the challenge. If you go back and look at the guidelines, I'm not requiring you buy your food during the challenge from a farmers market, and this is because most farmers markets aren't open for a lot of us or, if they are, the only things that are in season are storage foods like potatoes and root vegetables and for us in the Pacific Northwest, it's soon going to be all rhubarb and asparagus as far as fresh produce goes.
Not that I couldn't spend most of the month of April eating nothing but those items, but suffice it to say I'll want some other variety and that's where I'll choose certified organic or the like (I'll have a post later this week describing what all the different certifications mean). Some people have the issue in their area where farmers markets are far more expensive than getting other, sustainably grown foods, so they'll need to explore their grocery stores for more affordable options or choose wisely.
So, for most of us that don't have access to farmers markets at this time of year or you are still under a ton of snow, that means the next level is organic or sustainably farmed items that are shipped in from elsewhere, frozen or canned, and preferably family farmed. If some of that is local, great. Family farm produce/products might not be doable in your area, so you will need to rely mostly on certified organic (or similar) to know whether or not what you are buying is sustainably grown.
We are lucky where I live in that there are a lot of locally grown fresh fruits readily available in our grocery stores. They are mostly apples and pears, but that's what we've been eating all winter anyway. For supplemental fruits, I've been getting organic frozen fruits and vegetables from local farms that are sold in our grocery stores as well as organic frozen juice (concentrate).
Since we've been eating seasonally for the last year, limiting what we eat mostly to what's local and in season (except for a few splurge items here and there like avocados and tomatoes), I tell you I'm champing at the bit for asparagus season to start. Roasted asparagus, grilled asparagus, steamed asparagus. I have a much higher appreciation for these tasty treats since I refuse to buy them fresh out of season or imported from South America.
Anyway, if you want to participate in the challenge, don't feel like you have to buy your produce from a farmers market. In many areas you should be able to find organic or sustainably grown products in your grocery stores. I would, however, caution against purchasing organic food flown in from out of the country, if you can. Not all of us have easy access to sustainably grown foods in our regions, so you'll need to decide what works best for you and, I suspect, this challenge will be more difficult.
If you want to sign up for the challenge, add your name to the comments of this post.
Do you have any year-round farmers markets or ones that will be open in April where you live? If so, what local fruits and/or vegetables are available now?