to the (Nearby) Land
if rising gas prices finally drove us to grow and eat more
of your supermarket not from the inside, with its bins of
plenty, but from the outside rear, as a row of loading docks.
The destination of trucks rumbling over the highway, whose
drivers are beset by the same transportation problem we face:
Gasoline is unprecedentedly expensive. And diesel fuel tops
We commute to work, run errands, schlep kids, and eat that
increased price as a cost of living. Trucking companies don’t.
Supermarkets don’t. We eat that price difference, too.
It’s rarely a single reason that pushes me to change a long-standing
habit, and if you’re similarly wired, gas prices ought to
break the camel’s back. But the more discerning diners among
us already have been focusing on local food for several other
have been many problems with what’s in the supermarkets,”
says Gwen Hyde, whose Windy Willow Farm shares produce with
subscription members. “People are concerned with e. coli,
among other things, which reflects the larger issue of who’s
growing your food and what are that person’s values.”
In increasing order of exertion, the nonsupermarket alternatives
include shopping at farmers’ markets, subscribing to a Community-Supported
Agriculture (CSA) farm or growing your own.
No flavor is more exhilarating than that of a just-picked
bean or broccoli crown, munched raw in your garden. Likewise,
no tomato is sweeter. It doesn’t take much ground space to
grow a season’s worth of veggies, but now’s the time to prepare
it by working compost into the soil even as you give an indoor
start to your seeds.
Online resources abound. I wouldn’t have assumed this, but
the Better Homes and Gardens Web site (bhg.com) has
a good getting-started page, and a simple search will yield
If you have absolutely no land at hand, a windowbox will yield
fresh herbs and more vegetables than you might expect. A more
robust option is to share space with others in a community
garden, and Capital District Community Gardens will help you
find that space.
They’ve been doing this for over 30 years, and now are coordinating
collective gardening at 46 locations in Albany, Schenectady
and Rensselaer counties—typically vacant lots or parkland
that they’ve been allowed to commandeer. The nonprofit organization
recently added an Internet presence to make it easier to find
and work with them. A visit to cdcg.org gives you access to
a wealth of resources, both online and as pointers to classes,
forums and even recipes. You can look at the gardens themselves
and apply online for signup information.
A more recent CDCG program is the Veggie Mobile, a “mobile
produce market,” according to assistant director Audrey Leduc.
“It’s a farmers’ market on wheels that we send every week
into places like senior centers and lower-income neighborhoods,
places that have limited access to fresh produce.” The Veggie
Mobile’s 2008 schedule is available at the CDCG website.
If you don’t mind a more stationary farmers’ market, they’ll
be returning to the area shortly—if they even left. The stalwart,
of course, is Troy’s, which runs through the winter (and continues
to run, through April) at the Uncle Sam Atrium from 10 AM
to 2 PM on Saturdays. And it’s much, much more than merely
produce, as those who dine there weekly will attest.
At the Warehouse, an Albany venue (not far from the Miss Albany
Diner), offers a year-round market presence; most of the Capital
Region’s others run from July through October. Check out nyfarmersmarket.com
for addresses and schedules; a more skeletal listing is maintained
at New York’s Agriculture and Markets Web site (agmkt.state.ny.us).
Don’t overlook the offerings at Albany’s Honest Weight Food
Co-op, which stocks a year-round variety of sensibly grown
items, with those sourced locally so designated.
Assuming you have the desire to farm but lack the land, most
CSAs will let you put in some hours in exchange for your bounty—much
the same way a food co-op works. You’re usually allowed to
pay the annual fee and simply collect your goods, but it’s
more soul-strengthening to grab a hoe and smack the soil.
According to Wendell Berry, a farmer who writes passionately
about matters of society, a community traditionally has been
defined as a group of neighbors who share an interest in an
area of land, a pre-supermarket concept that has eroded in
this era of mass distribution of food. Yet it remains a social
unit that people crave, as evidenced by the subscribers to
Windy Willow Farm’s CSA program.
want our neighbors to be members,” says Hyde, “because they’re
the ones who drive past the farm every day and can see what’s
happening here, and notice what’s changing.” And they have
transformed the weekly produce collection into its own social
runs from 4 to 6, but nobody shows up at 4:30 and leaves at
quarter to five. They get here at 4 and stay the full two
hours, talking with each other as their kids play nearby,
trading recipes and just catching up on news. Enjoying the
space.” Hyde reports on her farm’s activities at windywillow
And CSAs aren’t just about produce. If you’ve consumed enough
horror stories about how supermarket-bound livestock is raised
and slaughtered, turn to a CSA for meat from grass-fed, pastured
To find those CSAs—and there are many in this area—consult
the listings at localharvest.org, an excellent national database
of all things sustainable. Locally, the Regional Farm and
Food Project (farmandfood.org) is a 12-year-old consortium
of conscientious farmers and other food fans promoting sustainable
agriculture—which naturally gives rise to sensible eating.
Although the Web site offers fewer listings than others mentioned
above, you’ll find an active resource of programs, activities
and like-minded organizations.
Nothing is more essential to our well-being than the food
we eat, yet we’ve enjoyed extensive brainwashing as to the
viability of what’s most easily available. If oil-company
greed finally drives us to our local farms, that may prove
to be an ironically salubrious phenomenon.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
salubrious and timely events are scheduled this
week at the Honest Weight Food Co-Op’s Community
Room (484 Central Ave., Albany). “Living Gluten
Free” is the subject of a workshop with Amy Pagano
from 1 to 3 PM Saturday (March 8); the store’s
plant buyer, Gayle Anderson, discusses “Starting
Seeds” from noon to 2 PM Sunday (March 9); and
“Eat Good Fats” will be the topic from 6 to 7
PM Wednesday (March 12). For more info, call the
Co-Op at 482-2667. . . . Enjoy a Southern Italian
dinner and wine tasting at Saratoga Rose Inn
and Restaurant (4136 Rockwell St., Hadley)
at 7 PM Saturday, March 15, an event featuring
five courses paired with five wines and commentary
by Janine Stowell of Opici Wine Co. Chef-owner
Richard Ferrugio will be preparing leek and pancetta
frittata, Sicilian pesto with mint and almonds,
braised rabbit agrodolce and much more. Dinner
is $70 per person, plus tax and tip, and seating
is limited. Call 696-2861 for reservations. .
. . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland
(food at banilsson.com).