Spring is here! Every time spring rolls around, it brings an appreciation for the longer days, warmer weather, and blooming flowers and trees of the season. My family tends to hibernate a bit in the winter, so once spring hits we are ready to be back outside exploring as often as possible! As a vegetarian family, we eat a variety of local produce, and spring is the perfect time to experiment with different fruits and veggies and new combinations of familiar favorites.
My kids are five and three and can definitely resist trying new foods or even those they like prepared differently. I’ve found it helps to include them in the whole process to get them on board with trying new fruits and vegetables; from planning to purchasing to preparing local produce. As we learn more about the food industry and the implications our food choices have on our health and our local and global environment, it is important to find ways to help our kids make connection between the food on our plate and where it came from.
Our family’s weekly trips to the grocery store often include multiple negotiations to keep two kids in the cart, avoiding anything that looks like a toy aisle, and weighing the pros and cons of managing kids at a self-checkout kiosk vs finding the checkout lane with the least appealing candy selections. Despite my best intentions, there is unfortunately a lack of fun, engaging conversation about the food going into our cart. To supplement those weekly trips, here are three places beyond the grocery store we’ve found fresh, local produce and food in our communities:
1. Farmers Markets
Farmers market season is starting soon (except at PSU where it never ends)! Each community usually has a different starting week, but most start at the end of April or beginning of May and go through September or even later in the fall. This can be a fun way to not only teach children where your food comes from, but also meet the people who grow or make it. It’s the perfect opportunity to ask questions or get recommendations about preparing local produce.
We make a list together as a family before we head out and turn it into a scavenger hunt to find each item on our list. This helps reduce feeling overwhelmed. The kids help me pick out which pieces of local produce to buy, although somehow I end up carrying it all myself. If nothing else, it is a fun way to get out into our community, spend time outside, while simultaneously checking off items on my to-do list.
Check out these local farmers markets near/in Portland:
2. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
CSAs are something I was introduced to while living in Maine, but is certainly readily available in the Portland Metro area! How lucky are we to have access to so many local farms so close to our urban life? The concept behind the CSA is a local produce farmer grows the produce and individuals or families from the area purchase a “share” of the weekly harvest. They get a weekly (or biweekly, depending on the share type you want) pickup day where they go to the farm and get the fruits and vegetables directly from the farmer. This concept is a wonderful, one-stop shopping solution for all your fresh, local produce needs because it is usually harvested the morning of your pickup day!
Check out these other local CSAs:
3. Community Gardens
Community gardens are often offered through your local recreation department. If you don’t have the space at your home for a garden, these are small garden plots at different locations around the city you can sign up to use for a small annual fee. Use your plot to grow any local produce or flowers you want! We miss having our own dedicated green space for growing in urban life, so this year we are using our community garden spot to grow native-to-the-area flowers.