How To Eat Locally When The Seasons Change

The days are getting shorter, the garden has been put to rest, and the fruits and vegetables at the farmer’s market are getting sparse. We’re in the thick of fall, and as we all know, fall turns into winter and leaves us for many months without fresh leafy greens, sweet juicy berries, or perfectly ripe tomatoes. For many hoping to eat locally, winter can be challenging - but it doesn’t have to be! Dear readers, you really can eat locally all year round, even if you’ve never canned a day in your life!

No, there are no beautiful, locally grown tomatoes, berries, or greens in most parts of the country once winter hits, but there are plenty of other ways to shop and eat locally. Below are 7 items that are commonly available from local farmers and producers that you can eat all year long:

1. Storage Crops - Many local fruit & vegetable farmers grow storage crops (potatoes, root vegetables, squash, and even some fruits) that are held in temperature-controlled environments and keep locally grown foods fresh for months. Look for local storage crops at winter markets, food co-ops, or your local market. Be sure to ask staff if you need help identifying which foods are local and which are not!

2. Eggs - While chickens lay less frequently in colder months, you can still find locally sourced eggs at your local co-op or natural grocer. They won’t have the rich yellow yolk of summer, but they will be just as fresh!

3. Meat & Fish - Local meat and/or fish is available in nearly every state and can be found year-round. If you’re having trouble finding locally raised meats at your grocery store, head to the butcher, winter market, or go direct! A quick online search should reveal local sources nearby, allowing you to purchase directly from the farmer. If you’re really committed and have a deep-freeze, look into whole or half animal purchase options.

4. Cheese - Made from locally sourced milk, cheeses come in a startling amount of varieties and can be found locally in nearly all 50 states. Plus, what better reason to eat more cheese?
5. Bread - A food that can be made locally almost anywhere, bread is most delicious when fresh and from the source. Many grocers offer local bread options, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for head to your local bakery instead.

6. Beer - Beer culture is booming all over the country, so chances are there is locally crafted beer in your state, too. Local beer is often made in small batches, allowing brewers to experiment with flavors and to create truly unique beers. Bonus if you have a brewery nearby that offers growler fills!

7. Local Producers - Don’t limit yourself to fresh foods when seeking local products. I am lucky enough to live in a place with many local producers (kombucha, bars, nut mixes, and more can all be found in my state), but even if you live somewhere remote chances are there are still locally produced foods available. Look for jams, pickles, beverages, or other canned or preserved foods. Tip: several large grocers label local products throughout their store; look for local tags next time you shop.

While we can’t always eat local produce year-round, we can still make an effort to eat as locally as possible. Eating locally gives our bodies the freshest foods available and supports the communities in which we live. It unconsciously allows us to eat according to the seasons, and makes spring and summer bounty that much more delicious. What local foods are available in your area during the fall and winter months?