One of the more positive stories my parents would always offer me as a child is “what goes around comes around”, namely as it pertains to fashion styles, societal practices, trends and more.  When you are young, you do not necessarily take the words of your experienced parents with more than a grain of salt; after all they are “old” people who are a little out of touch (or are they really?).

I am a by-product of the 80s (even though I was born in the mid-70s).  I find it highly amusing, and oddly comforting, that a brief walk through Target to get prescriptions is enhanced by vibrant neon colored clothing everywhere.  I see lace popping up again on anything from shoes, to shirts, to shorts and I am instantly twelve years old again.  I love it.  Let’s start pegging our pants again and layering our socks, baby (or maybe not).

Recently, I ran the 2014 Boston Marathon in a day-glow neon yellow running shirt (underneath my fundraising shirt) and I revel in the memories of when I ran for an All American Cross Country team in Munich Stadium in 1989, in yes, you may have guessed it:  day-glow neon yellow running tights that would have matched the aforementioned shirt to a thread.  Twenty-four years and the cycle of fashion trends is coming full circle.  FUN!  (Although, I secretly hope mesh shirts do not find their way back, along with the Moms jeans! Eek!)

Recently, the trends with food also seem to be shifting, perhaps circling back to a prior era.  More and more of my friends, as well as the public in general, are making empowered decisions for better choices on what to feed their families.  Fast food has become a once in a while “treat” – because come on, sometimes one just needs a dose of salty French fries.  However, every day meals are being crafted at home, from scratch and using better ingredients that come from local sources versus the pre-packaged and processed variety in the inner aisles of our box grocery stores.

Even in households where both parents work, the act of preparing foods like Easy Mac or Hamburger Helper seems less likely.  The ingestion of the unpronounceable ingredients of so many “quick & easy” dinners is apt to leave mothers shuddering across the nation, and they take a few more minutes to create healthier plates of nutrition for their families.

As a child living in Oklahoma, we had a small farm for a while.  We raised pigs, goats, chickens, rabbits and the occasional wild animal that showed up in our lives, including a baby skunk.  Part of the intent of raising these animals, unbeknownst to me as a young child, was to utilize the meat to feed our family.  Needless to say, I was rather traumatized when my father announced it was time for the slaughterhouse for our four pigs that I had lovingly cared for and named:  Miss Piggy, Bacon, Porkchop, and Ham.  My father promised that Miss Piggy would not be sent for slaughter during all the days that she would come to me for back scratches and hugs, or when she would run to the fence to greet me after I came off the school bus.  My father broke my heart for the first time by breaking this promise and I vowed to not eat one ounce of the hundreds of pounds of meat that soon filled our freezers.

It was here, in Fairland, Oklahoma, where I first learned the phrase, “Did you ever see a chicken with its head cut off?”  Science demonstrated itself as my father slaughtered one hundred chickens himself; we had to do the cleaning and prepping process ourselves. Chicken after chicken lost its head and then ran around the yard for what seemed to be hours.  Fortunately for me, the process of raising and prepping chickens for food was a way of life back then.  We raised the animals from young, tender ages to being full grown – we fed them, we nurtured them and we knew all about them.

Fast forward many years to present day and thoughts about where our food comes from resurfaces.  Living in suburbia, growing and raising your own food sources are not likely. Our food can only come from the stores that provide it, right?  Yes and no.

After a hard cancer battle, I began to really evaluate our food sources.  Having no explanation for my cancer diagnosis, I began to suspect that environmental factors may have been at play.  Worried for our children, we began to make different choices to enable and empower us for good health.

Five years ago, we joined a local CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) for a share of the crops produced.  By signing up in the winter months, you provide the local farmer with the cash up front to purchase the seeds and supplies necessary for the crops ahead. In return, you get a weekly share that lasts anywhere from sixteen to twenty weeks of the abundance of the farmer’s land grown in June to October.  One benefit to joining a CSA is knowing where your food is grown; how the farmer treats the crops with pesticides, if at all; and eating the nutrients your body needs with the changing seasons.

Early June provides fresh berries and leafy greens:

ImageFollowed by tomatoes and summer squashes in July:

ImageAmple amounts of fresh corn, more tomatoes, summer squashes and greens through all of August:

ImageSeptember and October bring in more of the harvest and root vegetables including butternut and acorn squashes, potatoes, and so much more:

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Our current and by far, most favorite CSA is with Harper’s Farm & Garden. A few shares *may* remain, so do not hesitate and contact them to sign up today. Trust me, you will not regret it.

While vegetables and fruits certainly make up a large portion of our nutrition, we started looking for better meat sources.  Time after time again, we were disappointed in the disgusting taste and quality of many supermarket meats.  After spending much money on store-bought chicken breasts, only to have them be rubbery, taste poor and throwing the uneaten meat out; I decided there has to be a better option.  We were purchasing much of our meat at Central Street Meat & Deli, however, I knew there had to be a local farm that allowed us to feel confident about the source of our meat, as well as allowing us to support another farmer and his family.

Our current favorite meat farm is Kalon Farms.  Owned by Keith and Ashley Kopley, the quaint farm in Ashburnham offers such a wide variety of meats that we have yet to try all their offerings.  A twenty minute drive from where we live in Leominster is quick and easy.  We have fine-tuned our purchases so we go once every three weeks approximately and fill our freezer with a multitude of goods.

ImageThe meats at Kalon Farm are prepackaged in vacuum sealed pouches and frozen.  From fresh bacon, to ham steaks, to sirloin tips, to beef stew meat, to hamburg, and to roaster chickens; our dinners have never been better.  Preparing has never been easier, as the packages are easy to defrost and the meat remains as fresh as the day it was sealed.  My children even ask now, “Is this the farm meat? It’s so delicious, I can taste the difference!”

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Chili Lime Roasted Chicken infused with Clementines

My oldest, once a true vegetarian because she disliked the taste of meat and how the animals are treated is now eating small amounts of meat again – because the meats from Kalon Farm are tasty and she knows the animals are being treated humanely.

Now to find a local baker and I will feed my family much like people did in the “old days”; by shopping at each respective market for our food.  With the recent news of the latest carcinogen in our breads, (who wants to eat the chemical in yoga mats and sneakers a.k.a.  Azodicarbonamide), my focus is on finding suitable bread choices for my children and their beloved sandwiches.  The current favorite in the household is products by “When Pigs Fly” – namely their sourdough and rye varieties.  When Pigs Fly is based in Maine, but fortunately, their fresh, artisan style breads are available at many local markets.  The company uses only organic and fresh ingredients, and despite the higher cost,  we rest assured that our six year old can read the ingredient label with no hesitation.

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While I am unable to channel my inner Laura Ingalls Wilder and live on the prairie supplying my own food sources for our family; I am able to keep the local farmers in business by purchasing their quality goods and we are confident that the majority of our food is not likely to kill us. Although, we do enjoy Cheetos once in a very blue moon (translate: once or twice a year), have you ever stopped to ponder what exactly IS a Cheeto?

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What are some of your favorite local food sources? Share them with us!

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