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The Demise of the Dark Days Challenge

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And, the rise of local choices year round!

It was a great idea six years ago. To start a challenge for the dark days of winter. To try to find local ingredients to cook one meal a week for four months. Not Dabbling in Normal hosted it last year, and it is where I began my journey to look for locally sourced foods. It is what inspired me to start my local resources page, and to change what I ate, where I bought it, and how I prepared meals. It was not that difficult, thanks to all the resources here.

It seems to have outlived its usefulness, and it no longer was a challenge to cook a local meal in February. It became very easy in this area. High tunnels, greenhouses, hydroponic growing. Year round markets, indoors and outdoors. Farm stands open all winter. CSAs that deliver in the winter. Residents of Howard County are indeed lucky to live surrounded by farmers, artisans and entrepreneurs that keep us in local ingredients.

The challenge is gone, except for the few of us who still keep in touch, and blog every Sunday about our latest local meal. With me, most meals contain at least one locally sourced item. Breezy Willow CSA and Sandy Spring CSA provide me with fresh veggies and fruit for 44 weeks of the year. My freezer does duty to preserve some items so they are available in winter. The farm store at England Acres, the indoor market in Olney, and I don’t have to travel far to get what I need. For only ten weeks a year I don’t have local veggies provided to me from a CSA (yes, I can count, 44+10 equals 54 but my CSAs overlap). Look at these lovely winter selections, begging to make a chicken soup.

February Zahradka half share CSA

February Zahradka half share CSA

I think it is amazing that every year we expand the times for the Howard County markets, and add more farms. There are now five days of markets here in the county, from May until Thanksgiving.

market saturday last one and west county 002

We have at least eight CSAs dropping off boxes at pickup points, or being picked up at farms like Love Dove, Gorman, Breezy Willow, Shaw Farm and Roundabout Hills. Sandy Spring drops off in Columbia. Zahradka has at least two pick up points in the summer, and delivers to your door in the winter. One Straw Farm has been here a long time, too. People pick up at MOM’s or a private residence.

Add to that, South Mountain Creamery delivering milk, meat, eggs, other local products every week year round, to your door. And, now Friends and Farms is actively adding to the choices to find year round.

south mountain visit and day trip 026

When I started all this writing, I didn’t know it would take me on a path to a new way of shopping, cooking and caring about the small local businesses here. Glad I took the challenge, and so glad I found all these wonderful people to sell me my food.

nikon feeders and food 081

Ah yes, bison and polenta. Gunpowder Bison short ribs, Burnt Mills roasted corn meal made into polenta, one of those carrots from the above CSA delivery picture glazed with local honey, and the ribs topped with McCutcheons tomato preserves. Think eating locally is hard? Not here in HoCo, it isn’t!

hocofood@@@

About AnnieRie

Retired, I am following my dream of living in quiet west Howard County, a rural oasis, not far from the urban chaos, but just far enough. I love to cook, bake, garden, and travel. I volunteer at Howard County Conservancy. I lead nature hikes, manage programs and show children all the wonders of nature, and the agricultural connection to their food.

3 responses »

  1. Fresh CSA veggies, homemade ice cream, polenta … BISON! This post had it all. I am drooling.

    Reply
  2. You are so on target with this post. It is amazing to me how much we can get locally. I even found a source for local flour through Hometiwn Harvest!

    Reply
  3. The Dark Days Challenge really pushed to to find more local foods too as well as more awareness. It has been nice to keep up with the posting, I have enjoyed seeing what others in the group are finding and making.

    Reply

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