By Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH, RD
UConn Extension Educator/Food Safety
No, I was not racing to the nearest “big box” or department store on Thanksgiving night to get in line for a 29 cent towel. I was, however, enjoying my family around a table full of Connecticut grown turkey dinner food. Apples from Hindinger Farm were in my daughter’s apple pie. My turkey came from Stone Gardens in Shelton. We ate kale cole slaw, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes, all purchased from local farms or the CitySeed farmers’ market in New Haven. Unfortunately, my own garden produced only the rosemary and parsley. But, Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday to celebrate a local harvest, and I did my best (we did use canned pumpkin in the pie, I must confess…).
With Christmas, New Years Day, and many parties, celebrations and gatherings filling the next month or so, I would like to invite all readers to consider supporting your local farmer or food processor as you fill out your gift lists.
If you like your gift-recipients to have some choice, a gift card is always a good choice. Many of the larger farmers’ markets offer gift cards or similar programs. Or, alternatively, many large farm stands may do the same.
Check out Connecticut meat, poultry and egg producers as well. Some producers offer a program where you purchase a regular share of product (similar to community supported fruit and vegetable farms, only you are buying a regular share of meat). This would make a wonderful gift for a loved one.
Visit some of the winter farmers markets throughout the state to find gifts such as:
Breads, cakes, cookies, muffins, scones by local bakers
Holiday wreaths, trees, arrangements
Wool for knitting
Locally crafted pottery, knits, baskets, etc.
Dog biscuits (don’t forget your best buddy!)
Find lists of 2013/14 Winter and Holiday farmers’ markets, Connecticut meat, poultry, and egg producers at the Connecticut Department of Agriculture web site, www.ct.gov/doag.
Canned goods are another non-perishable choice. With the passing of what is affectionately called, the “Pickle Bill”, farmers can now process acidified foods (pickles, relishes, salsa, etc.) along with the jams and jellies they have been able to produce in their on-farm home kitchens. You may find these items at farmstands or farmers’ markets across the state. In addition, some farms have contracted with co-packers to process their products into hot sauces, bloody mary mixes, pasta sauce, specialty jams and jellies and salsa.
Don’t forget Connecticut’s wineries either. Whether your friends prefer fruit wines made from Connecticut apples or pears or a more traditional merlot or pinot blanc, you can find it here. Go to www.ctwine.com to find a winery or favorite wine near you (or not so near, as the case may be).
If you have lots of time on your hands, and some skill as well, then buy the locally produced yarn and knit a pair of mittens. Purchase some late fall/early winter produce such as apples or pears and make applesauce or pear butter. Try your hand at pickling cauliflower. Folks always appreciate home-produced things – and you can’t get more local than that! Just be sure to follow researched recipes for pickles and such. Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation at www.uga.edu/nchfp if you need a little help in this area.
Or, make up a gift bag—use a recyclable shopping bag–with a little of this from one farm and a little of that from another. Support your local farmer/producer. It is ever so much more satisfying than that 29 cent towel—and there are no lines to stand in!
For more information on locally produced food, contact the UConn Home and Garden Education Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-877-486-6271.