The best way to understand sustainable food is to experience it. If you’re ready to pick up a fork and start eating sustainable food or simply a long term subscriber to the sustainable food philosophy looking for more sustainable food sources Connecticut has a ton to offer.

The state is home to many locally owned farms, organic farms, and community supported agriculture programs all practicing sustainable agricultural. Farmers’ markets are abundant throughout the state during the summer months and there are a few year-round farmers’ markets. There are also supermarkets, and small markets selling sustainable ingredients. Check out the dining in section to find sustainable food nearest you and the harvest calendar to learn what ingredients are in season.

If you’re looking to try out dining out sustainably Connecticut has well over 50 restaurants offering some sort of sustainable dishes. Some serve dishes made only of seasonal available food, while others serve only a few dishes made from sustainable ingredients. Several Connecticut farms and chefs from local restaurants offer farm to table dinners during the summer harvest season. The dinners offer the chance to dine on the farm while learning more about how a meal was created. To find sustainable ways to eat out nearest you visit the dinning out section.

Charcuterie

Take a look at the resources section for more ways to eat sustainable food as well as links to learn more about sustainable agricultural.

The best way to eat sustainable food is know as much as possible about the food you eat, how it was produced, and where it came from. Ask questions. Does a restaurant use regional and in-season food whenever possible? Is the restaurant green certified? What percentage of a restaurant, farm, or market employees live in the community? What are a farm’s growing practices? Is the farm, restaurant, or market recommended by the Eat Well Guide, Local Harvest, or any other reputable organizations? What state was the ingredient produced in?

Eating sustainably is all about understanding what you’re eating.

Photographs via Flickr. Image of the fork by Daniel Y. Go , image of the charcuterie by Brad Lauster.

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Find out what community supported agriculture in Connecticut is all about by browsing photographs of nine CSA Farms throughout the state.

Photo gallery created using slideshare.

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Subscribing to the sustainable food philosophy is growing in popularity but there are those that are against it. Here are several cons of eating sustainably.

David Tamarkin argues in a Time Out Chicago article that eating sustainable locally produced food “ignores the rest of the world and focuses on what’s good in one’s backyard. This thinking, of course, ignores the fact that somebody else’s backyard might be more needy than our own.”

Tamarkin goes on to point out the problems with eating local organic food and misrepresenting  it as sustainable: “While a tomato that was organically grown on an Illinois farm has a low impact on the environment, an organically grown tomato raised in an Illinois greenhouse…can be deceiving. They may be locally grown, but that term fails to reveal they were grown in a heavily heated, gas-guzzling greenhouse.”

A New York Times article points out that local isn’t always sustainable: ” If mass producers of strawberries ship their product to Chicago by truck, the fuel cost of transporting each carton of strawberries is relatively small, since it is tucked into the back along with thousands of others. But if a farmer sells his strawberries at local farmers’ markets in California, he ferries a much smaller amount by pickup truck to each individual market. Which one is better for the environment?”

Sustainable food tends to be more expensive then mass produced factory farm food.

One of the cons of joining a CSA often a part of the sustainable food movement is “problems with the crop will effect your share, so a frost or bad harvest could make for a poor return on your
investments
and the most expensive bunch of beets you’ve ever purchased.”

A recent New York Times article, “Push to Eat Local Food Is Hampered by Shortage,”  discusses the problems with eating local and the lack of resources family-owned farmers have. Focusing on pasture-raised pigs the article describes the problem of a lack of slaughterhouses for small farmers which results in them having to drive hundreds of miles to other slaughterhouses adding costs, stress to the animals, and a greater environmental impact of their food.

Image via Flickr by edseloh: Mushrooms from the Oberlin Farmer’s Market, thyme, green onions, asparagus, and greens from a CSA.

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Several reasons to eat fresh local sustainable food…

“The advantage of sustainable agriculture is knowing where and how your food is grown and processed and that one is eating healthy nutritious food. It supports local farmers and merchants which helps the community,” Connecticut farmer Nancy Livensparger says.

Eating sustainably saves family farms. According to Sustainable Table, “since 1950, over 2 million farms that raised hogs have disappeared. If this continues, we might lose all our farms, except for a few industrial facilities that will dictate what we eat. By eating sustainably, you’re supporting a true American tradition that’s part of our cultural heritage – the small, independent family farmer,”

A 2005 report in the Journal of Food Policy found that eating local food is better for the environment in terms of pollution and air quality than even eating organic food because it tends to travel less.

According to New York Times best selling author Jo Robinson, grass-fed beef has two to six times more omega-3’s than factory farmed, grain-fed meat making it healthier than factory farm beef.  Erin Rosas of Rosas Farms in Citra, FL agrees: “With the media finally starting to catch up, there’s more evidence that low fat high Omega 3 grass-fed meats are the best choice. What you eat can affect your grandchildren ladies. The true price of cheap meat is unveiled, each and every day.”

By eating sustainable meat you are supporting the humane ethical treatment of animals. In contrast according to Care2.com “factory farms treat animals like commodities, and they are kept in tightly confined pens and often never move more than a few feet their whole lives.”

It supports a fair working wage for farmers and farm workers. According to Sustainable Food Lab millions of farmers and farm workers live in poverty but the sustainable food philosophy works to reserve that.

Eating sustainably provides for story material: “A great story is to go to a local farmer’s market in the summer and find a vegetable you have never seen before and start talking to the person who grew it, brought it to the market, and cooks it,” says Betty Ryder the first woman editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.

People swear sustainable locally grown food tastes better and the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project has a reason for why that may be so: “Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. In a week-long (or more) delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality.”

Image of carrots courtesy of Fire Ring Farm.

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During harvest season at Sport Hill Farm in Fairfield, Conn., a chalkboard signs informs CSA members of the weekly share

Farm fresh food, community, local farms—Community Supported Agriculture or CSAs are one example of sustainable food systems at work. A CSA is a food distribution system where local farmers and their communities support each.

A farm offers so many shares and share members pay a membership fee on average between $300 and $700 to their local farmer or CSA organization. Some CSA’s also require their shareholders to work for a set period of time on the farm. In return members get weekly share boxes of what the farm grows during harvest season. The food included in a full share is normally enough to feed two adult vegetarians for a week.

CSAs and sustainable food systems fit together well Read the rest of this entry »

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USDA Organic Label: product is at least 95% organic

Organic food is another term that is often mixed up with sustainable food.

As discussed in “What is sustainable food?,” sustainable food is a philosophy of growing, producing, and eating food in a way that respects the environment, animals, farmers and farm workers, is healthy for consumers and supports farmers and their local communities.

Organic food has been regulated by the USDA’s National Organic Program since 2002 and requires that food labeled organic is free of chemicals, pesticides, sewage, sludge, and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and that the food was produced in a way that promotes ecological balance and conservation of biodiversity.

The USDA National Organic Program established four organic classifications:

  1. 100% Organic – food contains 100% organic certified ingredients
  2. Organic – food contains at least 95% certified organic ingredients Read the rest of this entry »

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Slow food is another popular green food phrase. Slow food is sustainable food in action.

Slow food is an international non-profit organization founded in 1989 with over 100,000 members in 132 countries and country state and city chapters.

Members pay a $60 membership fee and become part of a local chapter that participates in local, regional, national, and international events celebrating and promoting slow food.

According to the Slow Food USA website “Slow Food USA envisions a future food system that is based on the principles of high quality and taste, environmental sustainability, and social justice—in essence, a food system that is good, clean and fair. We seek to catalyze a broad cultural shift away from the destructive effects of an industrial food system and fast life; toward the regenerative cultural, social and economic benefits of a sustainable food system, regional food traditions, the pleasures of the table, and a slower and more harmonious rhythm of life.”

Comparing the sustainable food definition of a philosophy of growing, producing, and eating food in a way that respects the environment, animals, farmers and farm workers, is healthy for consumers and supports farmers and their local communities to the mission of Slow Food USA shows the similarities between the philosophies with the difference being slow food is actively promoting an agenda.

Slow Food logo from Slow Food International, Slow Food USA logo from Slow Food USA.

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When discussing green food the terms sustainable and local often overlap, but the two words can mean very different things.

A Connecituct grown pumpkin

As discussed in What is sustainable food? sustainable food is a philosophy of growing, producing, and eating food in a way that respects the environment, animals, farmers and farm workers, is healthy for consumers and supports farmers and their local communities.

Those who subscribe to the local food philosophy are called locavores. The term locavore was coined by Jessica Prentice in 2005 and refers to someone who eats locally grown food normally produced within a 100-mile radius although the exact distance is flexible.

The idea behind the local food movement is that food produced locally supports the local economy, community and is better for the environment than shipping food across the country.

“I tell people one of the benefits of sustainable agriculture is it supports local agriculture, preserves the health of the land and preserves farmland,” Barbara Putnam owner of Beaver Meadow Farm in Litchfield, Conn., says.

In that sense local food should be considered part of the sustainable food philosophy. However, what if someone lives ten miles away from a huge industrial chicken farm. While getting food from that factory could be considered local it wouldn’t be considered sustainable.

To be clear locavores are generally not pro industrial factory farms, but it is important to know the difference between local food and sustainable food as one doesn’t necessarily equal the other. Image by Bree Shirvell.

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hard boiled egg with grilled asparagus and a goat cheese sauce made entirely from sustainable ingredients

In the environmental friendly world of food people tend to throw around a lot of words whose meanings are questionable. When discussing green food sustainable, organic and local are three of the terms that seem to keep coming up, but what do they mean? Ingredients can be sustainable, local, and organic but they can also be local but not organic, organic but not local sustainable but not local or organic, sustainable and organic but not local….you get the idea.

Sustainable food is more a philosophy then a concrete thing such as organic food, which is now monitored to varying degrees of successfulness by the USDA, or local food, which is normally considered to mean food produced within a hundred miles of where it is being consumed.

So what is sustainable food?

Well, the US government defined sustainable agriculture Read the rest of this entry »

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