Over the past few weeks, you may have become familiar with “The Curve,” the graphic that illustrates why social distancing is so crucial in overwhelming hospitals. Stuck at home, many of us face another curve – the speed at which we learn to cook at home.
While some restaurants may still serve take-out – and we hope you can patronize your favorite local dishes every now and then – a fully take-out diet is not achievable. Until restaurants can reopen their dining rooms, we’re mostly on our own.
So here’s to make the most of this new reality. Let’s update our habits, connect with our local producers, and learn how to cook healthy and delicious meals to stay fortified for the challenges we face.
Bite-size is a weekly column that will provide updates and tips from our local New Hampshire producers and chefs as we learn to source our ingredients and cook our own meals more consistently. So, stop by for tips on home cooking in the Granite State.
March 31: shop at local farm stalls
Join the farm-to-fork movement with community-supported agriculture
With the governor’s direction to stay at home in place until May 4, we’re going to eat at home – a lot. So now is the perfect time to get to know a farmer or two.
Much of the food in large grocery stores travels thousands of miles to reach you and passes through many hands along the way. Our local farms are trusted sources of healthy, safe and local ingredients. Plus, any dollar you spend on a farm is quickly spent in the community on hardware stores, local mechanics, and on farm workers’ payroll.
Due to COVID-19, our farmers are facing an unprecedented challenge as their restaurant patrons slow down or stop mass food orders while their dining rooms are closed. In order for a farm to remain in operation, people need to buy fresh produce from the farm stands and reserve future harvests through the actions of the CSA. Right now, there is an abundance of farm-fresh produce, meat, and pantry items available throughout New Hampshire if you know where to look.
Find your local farm stand
There are a number of resources and directories that will point you to the nearest farm or market. New Hampshire Department of Agriculture releases annual report New Hampshire Farm Stands Directory. Most farms maintain a social media account on Instagram or Facebook. Follow them for more on current availability, pickup and delivery option updates, and safe social distancing policies.
Nonprofits across the state want to help you connect with your local farmer. For example, Seacoast Harvest has a comprehensive directory of farms that support the coastal community. In addition, they coordinate deliveries for citizens without transport. See their specific COVID-19 resource here.
Tips for your farm visits:
- Weekly Meal Plan: Think ahead about your needs and order ingredients online or over the phone to confirm availability and allow the farmer to prepare your order.
- Opt for cashless. In this time of germ avoidance, the best practice is to pay by card. If you need to pay by cash or check, you may want to confirm in advance that these payment options are available and accepted.
- “Go” before you go: Stay-at-home orders are designed to limit possible exposure events in public places. Try to avoid stopping at public restrooms or relying on the farm for restrooms.
- Observe social distancing requirements: don’t let the change of scenery make you forget that we always maintain a distance of at least six feet from others, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds too often as possible, covering the cough or sneeze (in the sleeve or elbow, not in the hands) and generally keeping things clean.
- Wear gloves: Whenever you are in public spaces, wear gloves to avoid spreading or picking up germs.
- Bring disinfectant or wipes: When you leave the house, you expose yourself to the exhibit. If soap and water are not available, a hand sanitizer will help you clean your hands.
Reserve a portion of ASC to secure local foods from June
CSA actions are a little different from a farm visit. A CSA share is typically a prepackaged box containing portions of the weekly harvest. You pay your farmer at the start of the season, then, from June, you collect your box of freshly picked fruits and vegetables all summer. Some farms offer ASC stocks that include dairy, meat, and pantry products like honey or maple syrup.
This model allows you to reserve some of what is planted now and harvested in the summer. They are offered in seasonal and annual models depending on the capacity, infrastructure and operations of each farm. As the demand for local foods increases, a share of the ASC will ensure you have a box full of freshly harvested vegetables every week. Most of the shares sell out in mid-April, so now is the time to make your reservation.
An ASC share is a promise between us and our farmers – it allows us to directly contribute to the financial security of our farmers. In New Hampshire, we have an aging farm population at high risk of contracting COVID-19. Many do not have retirement accounts, savings reserves or stable income beyond farming. Therefore, in these uncertain times, buying directly is the most effective type of support.
Some farms survive on money earned at weekly farmers’ markets. With the cancellation of all markets, a CSA action can replace some of this activity and provide farmers with a guaranteed income when they fill orders over the summer. By purchasing an ASC share (ranging from around $ 300 to $ 700 for the season), you are helping your local farmer close the gap for the next eight weeks until the market season begins in June. By the time your weekly box of vegetables is ready, you will hopefully have learned some new skills to become a boss of local farms, a talented chef (or at least a better one than before), an expert in seasonal vegetables. and a pro at preservation.
Seacoast Eat Local Program Coordinator Shelly Smith connects people to coastal farms. She says spring is a time when farmers can use a cash advance for the prep work required for a successful growing season. Before they can sell their produce, they must buy farm equipment, hire staff to plant seeds, order chicks and livestock, and maintain the property.
Since you will be doing weekly pickups, invest in the farm closest to you. If you know you won’t be able to pick up a box for a week, invite a neighbor or friend to enjoy your share for the week. They can pick up using your name.
During these periods of stay at home, we have the opportunity to sharpen our home chef skills by preparing meals from what is available. Let your imagination run wild now and by the time your CSA shares arrive, you’ll be ready to whip up soups, salads, breads and meals using ingredients available in season.
Next stop in Bite-size: Local meat and seafood