In many parts of the continent, we're still in the throes of winter, so planning now for summer fare may seem far-fetched. But if you want to enjoy the full bounty of summertime, this is the time to start thinking about where your food will be coming from.
1. Research and sign up for a CSA.
If you're not familiar with this increasingly popular concept, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Participants buy shares in the yield from a local farm, then all summer long, as crops are harvested, shareholders receive weekly deliveries of a wide variety of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Having fresh produce delivered regularly is a definite inspiration to eat locally and healthfully. This is the time to sign up for a CSA, as the number of shares is limited, and some CSAs sell out quickly. The website Local Harvest has a search tool that lets you find a CSA near you.
2. Plan your garden.
CSAs are great, but there are certain easy-to-grow, high-yield staples I like to grow for myself – mixed leafy greens, tomatoes and herbs – partly because they don't travel that well and partly because I think they taste best fresh from the dirt. Even if you don't have a lot of outdoor space, you'd be amazed at how much you can grow in just a few square feet, or even some pots. Mel Bartholomew is famous for popularizing the idea of Square Foot Gardening, and you can get lots of tips and information at his website. Get a seed catalog and start planning now, and you'll be ready to hit the ground running by the time the ground thaws.
3. Get a community garden plot.
If you don't have any outdoor space, find out if there are any community gardens in your area. Like CSAs, community garden plots are in high demand in some areas, so again, this is the time to do your research. The American Community Garden Association has a searchable database of gardens across the country.
4. Consider yardsharing.
If there aren't any community gardens in your neighbourhood, or if they're already full up, consider yardsharing. In America, the Hyperlocavore website links people with unused yard space with those looking for a place to grow food. The organization Sharing Backyards does the same thing in Canada and around the world. Having participated in yardsharing myself, I can tell you firsthand that this is a fun, rewarding way to meet new people and learn alongside each other.
5. Start a community garden.
If you're up to a project that will more than pay off the hard work involved, consider starting up a community garden yourself. This article provides a step-by-step tutorial in how to make it happen.
6. Plan some foraging expeditions.
And if you're feeling really adventurous, start researching what you can forage in your area. You might be amazed at what you can find just by donning boots and work gloves and doing some bushwhacking. Fiddleheads and morels in the spring. Wild greens and berries in the summer. Mushrooms in the fall. Even dandelions! One very important note: If you've never foraged before, be sure to go out with an experienced forager, especially when hunting for foods like mushrooms and berries.
Related: Tools for Eating Locally
(Image: Tammy Everts)