The Northeast Organic Farming Association of NY organized the September locavore challenge.  It was a month long campaign that set its sight on getting people actively involved in purchasing local food from sustainable places.  The challenge had three categories and each had a number of options.  These are the challenges my partner and I chose to take on.

For our first Grow, Cook, Eat Challenge we happily went down to our favorite farmers market in Union Square.  Despite Hurricane Irene’s damage to the local farms in Upstate NY and the surrounding areas, there were still plenty of good options to be had; from mouth watering fruit and a decent variety of greens, to artisanal cheeses, home made sausages, bacon, pastured eggs, grass fed meats, and raw cheeses.  Phewww!  There are so many wonderful options at this market that one spends more time deciding what not to buy than actually crossing items off one’s list.  Challenge #1, done and done! Piece of grass fed cake! Yeah, I know that doesn’t exist, but to me “grass fed” after everything sounds good, lol.

For the food preservation challenge I must admit we fell a little behind and we are just now coming around to pickling some beets we had in our fridge.  It will get done, I promise.

We also built and planted an Indoor Winter Garden (see photo at the top of this blog).  I measured the space in our kitchen and living room windowsills.  We purchased the wood, cut, sanded, and varnished it with a food grade varnish.  Then attached the wood to the inside of the windowsills and we were ready for some plants.  We went to the farmers market to buy our future food.  Granted, we went a little crazy and didn’t really plan for a “winter type garden.” We went more with a, “what do you think won’t absolutely die given the low light, not too much space conditions, but we still want some greens” idea! We ended up buying a bunch of plants that probably won’t do very well indoors.  For example, we already harvested the Swiss chard that was, in all honesty, probably not going to make it.  We also purchased and planted an Asian greens variety that is no longer with us.  We did get one harvest out of it but we had to send the rest of it back to the Universe as it was taken over by aphids.  Dang those aphids!  I tried washing them off, brushing them off, and I even tried an army of ladybugs!  But, the lady bugs just ended up going all over the place running right over the aphids most of the time. I did see some of them actually doing the work but it was too little too late for the poor Asian greens. We planted two containers of Waldmann’s lettuce that we already ate from, although one of the lettuce containers is not doing so well right now.  We also planted some Chinese Broccoli, which is doing very well.  And, we have a strong robust little bay leaf tree.  Can’t wait to use some of those guys!  There is basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, rosemary and we even planted two Rocambole garlic cloves that seem to grow well in these parts.  We have a nice vitamin greens plant, which is another Asian green variety. And lastly, we have some cute little lavender flowers that are growing up in between the mix.  All in all, probably not the most ideal winter garden set up, but you live and you learn.

So onward to the Join the Movement challenge.  Here all we had to do was “like” NOFANY on Facebook and follow on Twitter. Easy enough to do.  We even promoted the Locavore challenge thru our social media channels.  Hopefully we inspired someone to take this on.

We had to Blog about our Challenge Experience so here it is. I don’t usually like writing but I figured I owed it to myself to try.  Maybe it would help clear the cobwebs growing in the writing part of my brain.

Last and most fun was the Attend a Locavore Event.  This we did by going to Just Foods Let Us Eat Local.  That was a lot of eating! The place was packed with people, and food!  Some of our favorite places to eat in the city were there: Jimmy’s No. 43, Print, Candle 79, ABC Kitchen, and the list goes on and on.

The food ranged from great to not so good.  We went around the room stuffing our faces one little tasting after another.  Our favorite dish of the night was the chilled corn & crab soup from The Harrison, and funny enough, the warm corn & pork hock soup from The Spotted Pig.  There was some killer ice cream served up by a company in Brooklyn called Blue Marble Ice-Cream.  On a side note, if you haven’t been to Brooklyn to try their ever-growing list of artisanal foods, and farm to table restaurants, go, in the name of anything holy, please go, now!

The highlight of the Let Us Eat Local event wasn’t the restaurants that participated it was the farmers that provided the food for the night, they were the heroes.  The farmer that provides our CSA, Deb Kavakos of Stoneledge Farm was the honoree, and as if that wasn’t enough, we met Joel Salatin and got an autographed copy of his new book, with a photo op to boot!  What a night!

In the last of the challenges was the Take Action category.

The first was to Join The Millions Against Monsanto campaign.  This was not a problem as Andrea is going to be speaking at their NYC rally in October so we figured that should count as credit towards this challenge.

We didn’t get around to Volunteering at a Farm or Community Garden but we will. We spoke with our CSA farmer, Deb, and she mentioned they need help planting next years garlic crop, so we’re going to take her up on that.  Did I mention I love garlic? Anyway, we’ll be showing up ready to get dirty.  Lastly, we Donated to the NOFANY Farmer Education Fund.

All in all the challenge was fun, and truth be told, Andrea and I already do a lot of this stuff.  We’ll talk to anyone about local and seasonal food any chance we get, and more and more we are walking the talk.  This challenge helped cement in us the importance of supporting our local farming community by sourcing and eating locally and seasonally grown food.

Pablo Garcia, HHC