Best Sources for Locally Grown Groceries?
I've seen a lot of similar posts on this board for specific foods, but what are your best tips for finding a wide variety of locally grown foods? I know that the farmers markets are at the top of the list. But during the off season, or when your shopping schedule is out of sync with the market schedules, where do you go?
I buy the majority of my groceries from Wilson Farms, but I was frustrated to learn that their beef comes from Utah and other meats come from Pennsylvania, New York, etc. Since it's early in the season, most of their produce is coming from California and Mexico. Boston Organics gets a good portion of their produce from the west coast and South America too. Does Russo's carry local foods? How about New Deal? Is their fish mostly local? Are there other meat / seafood stores where I can count on finding some local options year round?
Given that we live in New England, there is a limited variety of local food that's available year-round. Most stuff just doesn't grow here outside of the months that farmers' markets are held. You might want to consider obtaining the typical storage vegetables (onions, beans to be dried, fruit to be canned) from farmer's markets at the end of the Summer and then preserving that yourself. Any good fish market like New Deal should be able to tell you what's local, and you can make your own decision. Russo's generally does not feature local produce.
The year-round component of the question was mostly referring to non-produce items such as meats, honey, canned fruits/vegs, etc. I do intend to preserve some of the summer bounty myself, but I have limited storage area at home so it limits my options.
Thanks for the info on Russo's. I'll keep hunting!
Farmers' markets are your friends.
This is also a good resource: http://www.newenglandgrown.com/ Lots of foods just don't naturally occur in New England, but maple syrup, cranberries, smoked game, fish, honey, dairy and meat are relatively easy to come by.
New Deal/James Hook/Courthouse fish - just ask the fish monger on duty. All of it is fresh, if that's an issue.
Produce: New England doesn't grow much between December and April (some places hot house, but you don't get really great local produce until well into June).
Protein: I love River Rock Farms - they deliver. Blood Farm has also gotten a good write up recently on this board. I can't think of a store offhand that regularly supplies local meat; though Whole Foods does mark its butcher case with a local stamp.
Groceries: Verill Farm out in Concord stocks a good number of locally canned and jarred pantry items. They also have a good root cellar during the winter and a wide array of local produce in season.
Lookout Farm in South Natick grows their own produce and has some off-season that is grown in greenhouses. In the summer, they have a wide selection of their home grown produce, including tings that are not easy to find like squash blossoms.
Volante's farm in Needham close to the Wellesley border grows a lot of their own produce - available in the summer but not off-season.
Generally, doing this in the Boston area involves way more petroleum use by me and others than is worth it.... There are summer and autumn days when I am west or north of Boston that I can hit several places in a couple of hours and make it worth it. I have one loop for the far North Shore and another for metro-NW. But I've been cutting back on that with the increased cost of gasoline in the past couple of years.
Most local supplies of produce are sold at orchards/farmstands (and larger operations like Verrill Farms do a considerable business with the fashionable restaurants in the metro area) and farmers markets. There is simply not enough concentrated supply to make it cost-effective for farmers on the one hand and local middleman markets on the other to do this on a regular basis.
Bostonians have also ensured that places that import organic food from great distances have saturated the foodie demographic.
Lots of great recs already. I'm another fan of River Rock Beef - it's a little pricier than some places but they raise it right and then age the meat, so the flavor is superb.
I'd definitely recommend Blood Farm as well, especially for the pork, which was super-fresh and clean-tasting. I haven't tried enough of their beef to recommend it one way or another. Worth noting that their prices are CHEAP - comparable to, if not lower than, supermarkets like Shaw's, and WAY less than Whole Foods. As gini mentioned above, WF occasionally marks things as local - as a company they are making gestures in the direction of local sourcing, but it's hard to tell yet how strong the commitment is and what the visible results will be.
Lionette's market in the South End seems very committed to supporting locally raised meat (and produce), but their prices are fairly eye-popping - probably a combination of them passing along the true cost of sustainably-raised meat and Tremont Street rents. I got some locally-raised, house-cured (all the right adjectives!) bacon from them a few months back and it was, sadly, really bad - wet, floppy, one-dimensional sweet cure - kind of a disappointment. hopefully that was just an anomaly.
Finally, Allandale Farm on the JP-Brookline line has been carrying more local products in the last year or so and supplements their own produce with stuff from other local growers. RIght now it's mostly lettuces and zillions of potting plants, but as the season goes along there'll be more fruits and vegetables.