Local Food: Nature’s Best Medicine

by Clark Zimmerman, L.Ac.

Everyone seems to love spring! It is the season where everything wakes up and the potential of the coming year is evident. The fragrant blossoms remind us of the sweetness of life, and of new possibilities. Spring also marks the beginning of gardening season. Gardening has been a longtime love of mine. I enjoy seeing the seeds transform from tiny mysteries into sturdy plants and again into fruits and seeds. It’s one of the most tangible examples of magic that I know. Whether you grow your own food or you buy from a local farmer or market, eating locally grown, organic, in-season food is truly one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.

We are so fortunate to live in the Rogue Valley where the climate is favorable for growing a huge variety of fruits & vegetables. Add in the availability of fresh seafood, wild mushrooms, and humanly raised dairy, eggs, and meats, and you have an entire medicinary of options. I encourage everyone to grow at least a little of their own food, even if you only have room for a few potted plants on the porch. I also recommend joining a local Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. ACSA is an amazing way to enjoy local, organic food throughout the entire growing season. The way it work is: you “invest” in the CSA up front in the spring, the farms then use this capital to plant, maintain, harvest, and deliver a fresh assortment of organic food to a pickup site. Once a week you pick up a box of organic produce. Ann and I always joke that it feels like opening a birthday present every week. It is a thrill to see what goodies are going to be in the box from week to week.

The are many CSA’s in the area.

For more information contac:

Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative
(541) 899-9668
www.siskiyoucoop.com

Fry Family Farm
(541) 535-3096
www.fryfamilyfarm.com

Elk Creek Gardens (upper Rogue only)
(541) 878-3420

Eagle Mill Farm (Ashland only)
(541) 482-2424
www.eaglemillfarm.org

Dunbar Orchards (Medford only)
(541) 326-1666

Blue Fox Farm
(541) 846-0251
www.bluefoxorganics.com

Here are just a few good reasons to grow organic produce or join a CSA:

It’s Healthy!
Food really is the best medicine. Since we eat on a daily basis, it is the easiest and most reliable way of getting all of the essential nutrients that we need. Nutrients are generally more easily absorbed from whole food sources, compared to isolated supplements. Produce picked directly from the garden tastes better, looks better and has more nutritional value. Locally grown food doesn’t require as much shipping or packaging, so it’s better for the planet as well. Another healthy factor of eating from a local garden is that you eat foods that are in season. Many Asian medical traditions believe that the foods that grow in a particular season are the most appropriate and beneficial foods to consume at that time. It sounds obvious, but with many foods available throughout the year, eating in season has become more elusive. You can take your cues about what to eat by going to your garden, or looking in your CSA box.

It Lowers Cost:
One of the most common complaints I hear about eating a healthy organic diet is that it’s too expensive. This is not the case for the gardener or the CSA member. Ask anyone who has grown a healthy tomato plant how much they pay for their tomatoes, and you will find that it is far less than supermarket prices. CSA’s also offer lower prices, as they cut out the need for the middleman. Many plants are abundant producers. IF you are willing to do a little freezing, canning, or dehydrating you can stock up on your cupboards for the winter. You also end up eating out less when the local growing season is in full swing.

It’s Relaxing:
When I garden I get to sit still. Though sometimes it can involve a lot of effort, there is a rootedness to the activity of the work. I get to listen to the sounds around me and tune into the scents of the season. I watch the parade of colors throughout the year, and witness the birth, growth, and death of many different faces. There is a subtle peace that permeates the gardener’s life.

A Little Can Go a Long Way:
A common dilemma when thinking of gardening is a lack of garden space. I figure that growing a little is better than growing nothing at all. If you have a small yard or even live in an apartment, you can often grow culinary herbs or vegetables in pots. One of my friends grows a “salsa garden” every summer. She has an assortment of tomatoes, herbs, and peppers in a few pots on her porch. Even a little amount of locally gardened food can really enhance a meal.

For more information on gardening in the Rogue Valley, I recommend contact the Oregon State University “Master Gardener” program.
Here is a link to their helpful webpage: Master Gardener Program.

And, for even more helpful info, you can contact:

Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center
569 Hanley Road
Central Point, Oregon 97502
(541) 776-7371

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Talent, Oregon 97540

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