The Sustainable Table: How to Start

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EUGENE, Ore. — For a second year, the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition published “Locally Grown,” a one-stop resource for all things eating local. You can look up farms, restaurants, vineyards and wineries and merchants. It also offers a “Beginner’s Guide to Sourcing Local.”

Step One: shop at a farmer’s market.

“Of course we recommend going to a farmer’s market because farm-direct sales is absolutely the best,” said Lynne Fessenden, the coalition’s director. “Your dollar going directly to that farmer just can’t be beat.”

Charles Duryea and his Grateful Harvest Farm are a familiar sight at the Lane County Farmer’s Market, which is arguably the most popular market in our area. There are, however, 13 others and there’s now one open every day of the week.

“We bring a lot of produce here and there are a lot of farmers who are represented here at the Farmer’s Market,” said Duryea. “We don’t want to take product home; we want to sell it all.”

If it’s difficult to get to a farmer’s market, you can find some of the same vendors online. Step Two: visit¬†EugeneLocalFoods.com.

“They’re selling meat and dairy and fruit and nuts and cheese and mushrooms,” Fessenden listed. “You can literally do your grocery shopping in one stop and be supporting local farms while you’re at it.”

You can also learn about each farm — what it offers, where it’s located.

“They have more than 70 area farms that they’re sourcing from,” said Fessenden. “The farmers just simply put up what they have available that week. The farmers set the price.”

Step Three in the guide: visit a farm stand. There are 31 of them in Lane County.

“A lot of people know the Thistledown, Lone Pine and Johnsons, but there are a lot of smaller farm stands out there too,” Fessenden said. “It’s just great community-building when you’re buying food from your neighbor and you get to know your farmer.”

Step Four: joining a community-supported agriculture program — or CSA — is another way to do that. You sign up to get a box filled with a mix of fresh produce from a local farm every week.

“It provides you with the opportunity to try things you may not normally buy or try,” said registered dietitian Jamie Skiles. Most CSA boxes get a little bit of everything, offering you a chance to test out produce like kohlrabi or chard.

“A lot of the CSAs send recipes with the produce boxes or they send you an email letting you know what to expect for people who really need to plan,” Fessenden said.

The easiest way to shop local is at your grocery store (Step Five), just be sure to look for local products. That’s easy at the Kiva, where any Lane County- or Oregon-grown product is labeled with a tag.

“The number of people who are making that a priority and making their spending decisions based on that as a criteria is definitely growing,” said the Kiva’s Elizabeth Reilly.

Those people aren’t just focusing their attention on their grocery stores. That’s where Step Six comes in: patronize restaurants that make it a priority to source local ingredients.

“Instead of going to McDonalds, maybe you’re going to Cornucopia and getting one of their Knee-Deep burgers,” Fessenden suggested. “Knee-Deep is a cattle farm here in Lane County.”

At Party Cart, nestled in a parking lot near the intersection of 28th and Friendly in South Eugene, nearly 100 percent of the meals are sourced locally.

“I like the idea of supporting small farms and local farms,” said the cart’s co-owner Tiffany Norton. “It just feels like you’re supporting your peers in a way.”

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