6 Tips for Sourcing Local Winter Farm Food

by Georgie Smith, farmergeorgiewrites@gmail.com

Tractor in a snowy farm field

Winter is coming. Do you know where you’ll find your locally-grown farm foods?

The bad news about living in the Pacific Northwest is our winters are dark, rainy and dreary.  The good news about living in the Pacific Northwest is there are plenty of opportunities for finding fresh (or stored), locally grown farm food. Even in the shortest days of the year.

In fact, our mild temperate climate means that many innovative Pacific Northwest farmers offer food twelve months out of the year.  

There are two main strategies for keeping nutritious, local food flowing into your family’s bellies through the winter months.

First off — Be prepared with as much locally grown food in your home larder before winter. Second — Know where to find local food sources through the winter to supplement what you stored or preserved.

Be Prepared — Preserving and Storing Local Food for the Winter

1) Winter Food – It’s Not too Late to Can, Dehydrate, Kraut and Freeze

With luck, you were putting up food throughout the summer as crops came in. There’s nothing more satisfying than enjoying those canned beans from the July bean harvest in January. Or, make a peach cobbler from the peaches you froze in August.  

But even so, even in October it’s not too late to keep putting up food in the Pacific Northwest.  Our favorite tips for late-in-the-season strategies for food preservation include:

  • Green tomatoes. The ripe tomato season is coming to an end (though you still might find a few) but many Pacific Northwest farmers will have a plethora of green tomatoes in late fall and early winter.  Can, pickle and freeze green tomatoes (they make a great salsa). 
  • Peppers.  Even though peppers are very sensitive to cool temperatures as young plants, they are surprisingly tolerant of the cold as the winter season moves in.  Peppers are often in abundant supply in late fall and early winter in the Pacific Northwest.  Grab a bunch and dehydrate them. Or, roast and preserve or simply can or pickle some of the last of the season peppers. But the easiest way for an abundant supply of winter peppers is to just cut them up and freeze them.
  • Beets and Carrots. You can also store beets and carrots (see below), however, if adequate storage space is at a premium, both beets and carrots are easy to can or pickle. 
Fall and Winter-Harvested Cabbage is Perfect for Making Sauerkraut
  • Kraut It. Another great end-of-the-season tip is to make sauerkraut with that abundance of cabbage or, if you can find them, kohlrabi.  Kraut is easy to make on your countertop in mason jars and can store in your fridge for months. An added bonus – the natural fermentation is very good at staving off winter-time flus and colds.
  • Apples. Late fall and early winter is prime season for apples. They will store for months in cold storage, but, you can also get creative. Apple chips are easily made with a dehydrator and a wonderful, healthy snack for the kids.  Apple butter is another quick and easy solution for an abundance of apples, all you need is a crock pot/ Or, be extra clever and pre-can your “apple pie filling” and you’ll just be minutes from apple pie on a dark and dreary winter day. Yum.
  • Dry Beans. Perhaps the perfect winter storage food, dry beans store easily on your counter and provide an incredibly tasty, healthy, filling meal during the winter months. Make sure to stock up on your favorites before the winter weather sets in.

2) Stock Up with Winter Storage Foods — No Canning Required

The most sure-fire way to make sure your kitchen is bursting with healthy, locally grown food through the winter is to stock up with winter storage foods in the fall.  Most farms and farmers markets are bursting at the seasons with the “harvest” through fall and the early months of winter.  

Take some time to stock up before your favorite farmer’s market or farm stand closes with the foods that will carry you through to winter. Some of our favorite vegetables to load up for winter foods are:

You can’t go wrong with an ample supply of garlic to last through the winter!
  • Winter Squash and Edible Pumpkins. So many types winter squash and pumpkins to choose, from small, edible-skinned delicata squash to large Hubbard types perfect for roasting or soups that will easily store into next summer. 
  • Potatoes. Who doesn’t like potatoes? Ask for known storage varieties to stock up your winter pantry.  Some types of potatoes store much longer than others (red potatoes typically don’t keep long, so eat those first.)
  • Onions, Shallots and Garlic.  Another every-day item we add to almost every meal. And, onions and especially garlic are good at warding away winter-time colds and flu.
  • Root Crops.  Almost anything that “grows in the ground” will store for quick a long time.  Carrots, beets, parsnips, rutabagas and turnips are the classics.  Store them in a dark, cool place and don’t wash them. (They keep better stored ‘dirty’). 
  • Cabbages. Another great storage vegetable are those big farm-grown cabbages. And the bigger the better for storage, they easily holding for months in cool temperatures.  Even if the outer leaves start to turn, just peel those off for a perfectly preserved cabbage tucked inside.

For more strategies on winter storage and setting up your own root cellar, check out our post – Beyond Canning – Easy Modern-Day Hacks for Winter Storage of Fruits and Vegetables.

Where to Find More Local Food During the Winter

3) Sign Up for Winter Farm Box CSA Shares

Many people are familiar with farm boxes, or CSA (customer subscribed agriculture). Typically a CSA is a program you sign up your family for at the beginning of a farm season, then receive a weekly box of fresh, seasonal vegetables and other farm foods.  Many Pacific Northwest farms, however, are also starting to offer winter-time CSA’s, also sometimes called farm box or farm share programs. 

This is a good way to ensure you get a wide variety of the freshest, most seasonal food from your local farm region, even through the winter. Your box will typically be full of the best of the winter stored foods, as well as special treats from your farmer’s greenhouse.  Delivery options may vary, so make sure to understand when you will be getting your box. Some winter box programs deliver every other week, or maybe just one large box of storage foods once a month. 

However, because it is winter, these programs are typically in short supply and hot demand. Ask your local farmers if they offer a winter food box program and sign up ASAP.  Check out Garden Treasure’s Winter Box Program here. 

4) Holiday Boxes and Special-Order Lists

Many local farms offer special holiday boxes or maintain a special order list especially for holiday meals.  And there is nothing as satisfying as preparing a holiday meal made from locally-grown foods. In fact, here’s why we think everyone should “Eat Local for Thanksgiving!”

Reach out to your local farmer and ask them if they offer any special ordering alternatives for holiday buying.  Garden Treasure’s offers a jam-packed box of goodies just in time for Thanksgiving. 

Make Sure to Check for Local Holiday and Winter Markets Near You!

5) Holiday and Winter Farmers Markets

Although the bulk of the farmer’s markets close down for the winter, some farmers markets offer limited, indoor markets during the winter season. Check in with your regional farmer’s markets or check this list of Pacific Northwest farmers markets.  

6) Home Deliveries 

There are more and more home delivery programs focused on offering fresh, locally-grown food direct to your doorstep.  Just don’t be confused by the national box programs versus local home delivery options. Nationally-promoted food delivery boxes like Ugly Produce and Imperfect Foods are just putting into a box the commodity foods that didn’t make the cut for grocery store sales, they don’t support locally-grown or small farmer foods.  

Our favorite home delivery model for the Pacific Northwest region  is a brand new one – Rethinking Groceries. We are proud to be working with this new company to provide fresh, Pacific Northwest-grown farm food to home addresses from Burien to Lynnwood.

We hope this gives you a few ideas to get through the winter. We know how important it is — this year more than ever — to keep up with eating fresh and nutritious foods to keep our bodies healthy and our immune systems strong.  In fact, it’s so important to us to provide safe, nutritious food for our family and community we’ve made a pledge to do just that!

Check out the The Garden Treasure’s Pledge to Growing Safe, Nutritious Farm Food.

Thanks for listening and please come visit us at our Snohomish Valley farm stand, one of our farmers markets in the greater Seattle area, or sign up for food delivery through our home delivery partners or a farm box program. You can read all about all of our local food options at our website – www.gardentreasuresfarm.com

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