Support local farms and be a winter locavore

The term “locavore” is popping up more and more frequently in casual conversation these days, but what does it actually mean?

Locavores buy from neighboring farms or farmers markets, usually within a 100-mile radius of where they live, and sometimes grow their own food.

Locally grown and harvested food tastes better, is more nutritious and is better for the environment, as its proximity requires less fuel to move to market.

Locavores also contribute to local economies by supporting local farms and food-related businesses.

But by joining this growing movement, members must accept the challenges farmers face from weather, insects and other factors that can influence successful crop production.

You might think winter is the most challenging time of year for a locavore, with few fresh vegetables available, but those who are dedicated to buying local food year-round will tell you that fresh, locally produced foods are abundant during the winter.

Success rests on the creative farming techniques used to lengthen the growing season and get those foods to market.

For example, high tunnel and hoop-style greenhouses offer inexpensive and flexible opportunities to extend the growing season and can be used to grow the most coveted of winter crops: cool-weather greens and sprouts.

You would be amazed at the variety of greens available locally for an easy dish of wilted greens infused with garlic and farm butter and topped with a local goat cheese.

Fresh produce offered by local farmers in the winter also includes late, thick-skinned winter squashes placed in cool, dark rooms, root vegetables stored in buckets of sand and potatoes placed in dark wooden boxes.

And don’t forget locally sourced canned and frozen processed vegetables and fruits offered by many local producers and farm stands throughout the winter.

Look for canned sauces, fruits, frozen vegetables, stuffed pastas or locally raised flash-frozen meats and cured bacons.

Dairy items such as cheeses, butters and milk are always available from local farms and are finding their way to neighborhood grocery stores.

Egg production slows down in the winter, but fresh local eggs can still be found to create a fried-egg sandwich on fresh-baked bread or a delicious frittata, such as the recipe with this column.

Rounding out a locavore’s grocery list are apples, apple cider, honey, maple syrup and fresh-baked goods. And, when a locavore has completed the gathering of ingredients for a hearty winter stew, you can bet he or she has probably poured a glass of winter harvest brew bottled at a local brewery or a glass of wine from a New Hampshire winery.

So, given that it’s possible to be a locavore year-round in New Hampshire, how can we help increase the number of local food producers and farms that can meet the demands of the locavore?

First, support local farms by shopping at a winter farmers market or farm stands. Meet the farmers and learn about their farming practices.

Second, dine at one of the many restaurants in Greater Nashua that offer dishes made with local produce. Restaurants offering local produce usually highlight this fact on their Web sites.

Third, join a CSA – Community Supported Agriculture. “Shares” are offered to the public. They consist of a box of seasonal produce each week from mid-June through October and often offer poultry, meats, eggs and dairy items during the winter.

Winter is the time to secure your CSA membership for the upcoming season. Visit www.localharvest.org for a list of farms, winter farmers markets and CSAs in your area (on the Web site’s home page, select “all” in the box on the right, then type in your ZIP code to get a list for your area).

This article was written by Liz Barbour, of the Creative Feast, based in part on information provided by the Hollis Agricultural Commission. For more information about the commission, which promotes local agriculture, visit www.hollisag.org.

For more information about the Creative Feast and to see more recipes, visit www.thecreativefeast.com.