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Best Sources for Locally Grown Groceries?

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cambridgejen May 29, 2007 12:30 PM

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?

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  1. Luther RE: cambridgejen May 29, 2007 12:58 PM

    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.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Luther
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      cambridgejen RE: Luther May 29, 2007 01:15 PM

      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!

      1. re: cambridgejen
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        gourmaniac RE: cambridgejen May 29, 2007 01:32 PM

        We signed up for a CSA this year through Stephen Parker farm and it's got good comments from others on this site. Parker's website states that there are some shares still available. The produce is clearly local but you don;t have choice in what you get.

    2. gini RE: cambridgejen May 29, 2007 01:32 PM

      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.

      Otherwise:

      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.

      1 Reply
      1. re: gini
        Aromatherapy RE: gini May 30, 2007 12:19 PM

        Pretty sure I remember (frozen) local lamb at Verrill. More? Haven't looked lately.

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        emilief RE: cambridgejen May 29, 2007 01:34 PM

        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.

        1. Karl S RE: cambridgejen May 30, 2007 07:35 AM

          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.

          1. MichaelB RE: cambridgejen May 30, 2007 08:27 AM

            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.

            1. Gio RE: cambridgejen May 30, 2007 08:44 AM

              Although Wilson's Farm is on our list of go to groceries, we like Tendercrop Farm in Newbury. Granted their produce is rather meager during the winter months, their meat is mostly their own, including Black Angus certified beef. All their meats are antibiotic free, free range, and "natural." Most of the fruit, and vegetables are grown right there on the farm and there are opportunities for pick-your-own berries of all varieties in season.

              Tendercrop Farm
              108 High Road (Rt. 1A)
              Newbury, MA 01951
              Phone: (978) 462-6972
              Large vegetable, flower and fruit farm also features gourmet food, bakery goods, homemade soups, butchery with certified Black Angus and free-range chicken. Gift shop with a large selection of dried flowers and hand-made wreaths and arrangements. In season annuals, perennials, herbs, pottery, mums, Christmas trees and decorating needs. Pick-your-own strawberries, peaches, raspberries, tomatoes and apples. Buffalo, peacocks, llamas and turkeys.
              Hours: Year round daily 9:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. winter 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

              We really do like supporting our local farmers

              1 Reply
              1. re: Gio
                Karl S RE: Gio May 30, 2007 09:26 AM

                This is part of my North Shore Loop, which includes Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury and Russell (formerly Goodale) Orchards in Ipswich.

                If I do my Metro NW Loop this summer, I may include Blood Farm in Groton, though I don't have a second freezer to justify getting the larger cuts of meat that others get there.

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                cambridgejen RE: cambridgejen May 30, 2007 09:55 AM

                These are all excellent tips - thanks! Are there any farms that sell turkey outside of the Thanksgiving season?

                1 Reply
                1. re: cambridgejen
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                  cheryl_h RE: cambridgejen May 30, 2007 01:41 PM

                  Bob's Turkey Farm in Lancaster sells turkeys year round. This is their website:

                  http://www.bobsturkeyfarm.com/

                  I've never bought from them, but my SIL and her husband are regular customers and swear by them. I get my holiday turkeys from Fantasy Acres in Groton, but they only do turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

                2. DavisSquare RE: cambridgejen May 30, 2007 11:01 PM

                  Local milk and ice cream (from Shaw Farm in Dracut) and eggs (their own) at Chip-in Farm in Bedford. Local produce in season too and very nice people. Much cheaper and less yuppified than Wilson Farm, but much smaller too.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: DavisSquare
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                    cheryl_h RE: DavisSquare May 31, 2007 06:51 AM

                    Chip-In also sells chickens. They stock Shaw's milk, cream and ice cream.

                  2. Gio RE: cambridgejen Jun 7, 2007 07:01 AM

                    DH and I were at Connor's Farm on Rte. 97 in Danvers yesterday and their lettuces, were priced at $.99 a head.....and they were enormous! Imagine Boston/Bibb lettuce at 99 cents? Used it for our dinner salad along with their radishes and chives from my garden.
                    Oh - and lemons were $.35 each. I know they don't grow lemons at the farm...but made me think of the gal last week who said she paid $2.00+ for one in her area. I love farmstands!

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