I love living in an area where bartering is still very much a part of life, and where you do things for acquaintances and neighbors, just because you feel like it's the right thing to do.
This year, I'm blessed to teach a fabulous group of sixth grade students, one of whom has her own flock of thirteen chickens. She is responsible for their care, feeding, and checking the nest boxes daily. And she has started bringing me fresh eggs about every two weeks. I offered to pay her for them, but she sweetly said no, that they give away the eggs they can't eat to friends. So, we've been enjoying wonderfully fresh eggs, with far more nutritional content and likely more environmentally responsible management methods, for several weeks now. They've made fantastic omletes, deviled eggs, and I love adding them to baked goods. The yolks are so bright yellow, and it warms my heart to know that they were given yummy veggie scraps from the kitchen with lots of love from this child, rather than some commercial feed strewn about by machines adults getting underpaid for their work. In return for these fabulous eggs, I share my favorite reads with this student, who gobbles up books the way her chickens do blackberries in the summer. All in all, more than a fair trade.
A few weeks ago, our neighbor took out his snow blower and cleared the entire bottom portion of the drive for us. We called to thank him and offered to bake them some homemade bread. I don't think they really expected us to go through with it, but they were thrilled with the banana coconut bread, and I loved baking it as a thank you gift... and it was much more economical than paying someone to scrape the road.
At our favorite local bakery, we've discovered that if we go in at the end of the day, they'll often cut us a deal on the day old bread, which is already reduced. If they don't sell it by the end of the day, they have to throw it out or donate it, so by having us purchase it for a reduced cost, we're helping them pay for the ingredients and overhead, while still getting a lovely and hearty bread for sandwiches or breakfast. Even though we generally make our bread ourselves, we find that we love patronizing the bakery and that we get ideas for new flavor combinations to add to our own breads. (The apple rosemary bread sourdough we had a few weeks was fabulous both with butter and cream cheese, as well as being prepared as a grilled cheese sandwich. It's definitely something we'll try this fall when apples come around in abundance again.)
We've decided to split a share of a local CSA (community supported agriculture) program through a farm cooperative with another family from church this spring. This means that for about 20 weeks, we'll get farm fresh veggies, with the option of adding eggs, goat cheese, and even meat. For $25 a week, this is a steal for providing ample organic produce for 4 adults and two kids. The cool thing about this CSA is that it has a service expectation with it, so I'll get to spend some hours out at a farm this summer learning just how they do things and helping to maintain some of the veggies. (Or maybe I'll get to help out with the poultry and learn how to care for some chickens... I can't wait!) It's amazing how much further your budget goes when you decide to spent locally, and how much better you feel knowing that more of that money goes to support those farmers directly. Not to mention the benefits of transporting the produce a shorter distance, meaning fewer fossil fuels used and fresher ingredients.
So, how about you? How are you sharing in the abundance that you have, large or small? Are you considering supporting more local farms this year? And how do those decisions impact your budget; are you like us and finding that it's worth it, both for the money and the health of your family and the environment? Or maybe you're not quite there yet, and are still on the fence about the whole local food movement. Whatever your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you!