I think we can all agree that food should be: safe to eat, delicious, easy to prepare, and safe and easy to shop for. Up until March this year, each of us had our own idea how to get fed. For most, this involved restaurants, take out and frequent trips to the grocery. Now how do we do it?
Just like that, we are fixing all of our own food, and going to the grocery store is an ordeal. Masks, sanitizer, one-way aisles, special hours, anxious shoppers, scared workers. And empty shelves! And limits to how many you can buy, which really makes you want to buy more of that thing.
In March, we stopped going to restaurants, and began honing our cooking skills.
By April, we started being anxious about the grocery store: invisible germs, too many people, infectious surfaces. Toilet paper and every type of cleaning supply were out of stock.
By May, food scarcity set in. Stores ran out of flour, eggs, yeast, meat. People who didn’t panic-buy toilet paper are now carefully stocking their pantries.
Relationships to food have certainly changed. Our food chain has taken a hit, with meat plants in the midwest closed and produce harvesting in the south and west cut back. And the potential for contact with the corona virus makes shopping feel unsafe.
But here in Sterling we have our secret weapon against pandemic, shelter-in-place food disruption: farms, farmers, and farm stands. We can be grateful that our community has so many hard-working farmers, who are always Working From Home, usually socially distanced. This latest crisis doesn’t alter the seasons, or their work. And they will help us through these tough times.
A big thank you to David Chandler at Meadowbrook Orchards, who has made big changes to his business to meet the big changes in ours. Meadowbrook now offers take out meals, and also meal kits, providing about 500 meals a week. If you stop at Meadowbrook you’ll find grocery items in addition to the baked goods and frozen foods that are always on offer. Because people ask for his help, and because he can help, Chandler has started offering those hard-to-get essentials we used to take for granted (or not even buy) like flour and yeast. Meadowbrook has also partnered with First Church to deliver 100 meals a week for the Food is Love program.
What shopping experience could be safer, or more relaxing, or more convenient than stopping at a nearby farm stand? You’re safely outdoors, and the food has been handled by perhaps only one other person. We have farm stands in abundance here. By all means, go to the Sterling Farmer’s Market on Fridays from 3-6:30, in the town square. But every other day of the week, head down Chase Hill Road to visit farm stands at Rota Spring Farm, Meadowbrook Orchard, Fat Daddy’s Apiary, and Deershorn Farm. Or drive north of town to Pineo Family Farm and Maplebrook Farm. Or stop in town at Clearview Farm or the garden produce stand on Maple St.
Demand for locally raised meat increases with shut-downs at national meat processing plants. We are so lucky to have local livestock farms, that sell directly to us. Rota Spring Farm offers beef in individual packages. Rocky Acre’s smallest offering is 1/4 of a cow (100 pounds), which will take up space equivalent to 3’x1’x1’ in your freezer. Hubbard’s Farm in Princeton has beef, poultry, pork, and sausages. Harper Naturals in Lancaster sells family sized packages of beef. Check their websites for details.
Although local hens are not always able to keep up with local appetite for eggs, look for them at Meadowbrook Orchard, Maplebrook Farm, and the neighboring egg farm on North Row Road.
Information on local produce at all farms will be posted on the Sterling Fresh Food Facebook page, along with tips on how to prepare it. Check out delicious 1-Minute Spinach. Please post your own favorites.