Being a home chef allows control over the sourcing of food to exponentially increase. The purchase of meats, fish, cheese, dairy, eggs, produce, and honey can be made from farms directly. Not only can you be sure about your food content, you can be sure that it hasn’t been processed by anyone except the pickers, the fishers, or the butchers. That is just about the best you can do to in removing middle management. Check out this great post on the whys and hows of knowing the origin of your meat by the Organic Prepper.
You might already be thinking: there are no strawberry crops near me for most of the year! That’s absolutely true. A movement towards less reliance on the grocery store means allowing the seasons to govern your produce options. It also means purchasing in season and freezing for use out of season (click here for information about length of freeze times). If you take advantage of a local farmers market, you probably do some of this already. And, the grocery store will always be there for you in a pinch.
It will take some work to establish vendors: the crop farmer, the livestocker, the fishery. The beekeeper, the grainer, the cheesemaker, the egger. The two you’d likely have to visit most frequently are the cheesemakers and eggers. If you’ve been shopping at the same grocer for all of your goods for years now, making the switch to sourcing directly might sound a bit overwhelming.
Start small. Begin by going to Eat Wild. This is an incredible website that list farms and their contact information by state! Try these other sites to help locate specific goods:
Honey at http://www.honey.com/honey-locator/
Seafood at http://www.localcatch.org/
Or, search — find local (food) in (zip code)– using Google.
If you find one farm to source something like chicken and eggs, you will be able to build up from there by learning more about neighboring farms as well as the strategies used by peer farm-to-table home chefs. If access to locally produced goods is not possible consider shipping in large quantities or making a road trip to buy a freezer full.
A word about the economy of sourcing your farm goods: in many cases, prices are far better when you purchase directly from the farm because middle management has been removed. Eggs are a great example. My local grocer sells the free roaming, vegetarian fed, antibiotic free eggs for upwards of $5.00 a dozen while I can get the same for less than $3.00 from my local egger who has her own small-scale henhouse. The farmers market sells for about $4 a dozen.
Be prepared for prices that may be higher than the your grocer’s, especially on meats. For example, the chicken purchased from an organic farmer has been responsibly raised and processed and it can run near $10.00/lb. Know that there is a certainty associated with that chicken that cannot be associated with your typical store bought chicken. The increased price buys you certainty of health and wellness in your food. This translate to health and wellness for you. It is at this point that I say: I’m worth it.
Check bulk pricing. The purchase of an entire roaster will be far less than the purchase of prepared chicken breast, something like $4.50/lb. By eliminating the farmer’s need to process the chicken, you’ve reduced your cost. And you have an entire chicken to use for meals worth of meat.
My promise: once you find specific vendors, a relationship will be developed with them as well as an ordering schedule and a satisfaction in not only your purchase but also your preparation and enjoyment of the food.
Knowing a fish was just caught in the bay is likely to inspire you to prepare it gently, with light oil or butter, lemon or dill. Less preparation means wholer food.
Ultimately, the entire economy of your food becomes streamlined while you learn to self curate your edibles and the services by which they arrive for your nutrition and enjoyment.
foodprocess.org: forget processed food, get a food process
Images from Williamsburg Farmers Market