Thursday, February 27, 2014

Another year for my personal March challenge

Hey everyone!  I'm so excited for March!  Wanna know why???!?
  • The weather is always so awesome during March in Austin, and so it marks the start of kayaking season for my wife Kellie and me.  I can't wait to get out on the boats again!
  • It's spring break, which means both Kellie and I have off for 9 days together.  Bring on the fun!
  • I get to spend a long weekend camping with three of my great friends from high school.  It seems we are making this a tradition, and I just can't WAIT for the great conversations & laughs we all have together!  It can't get here soon enough.
March also marks for me the time of year for my own personal challenge.  I started this back in 2010 with "No Car March."  I went everywhere I needed to go on my bike or on the bus - work, grocery store, bank, out to name it, I was on the bike (mostly) or the bus.  In 2011 & 2013, I repeated the same "No Car March", and it was just as much a personal challenge as it was the first year I did it.  Well, guess where I was in March of 2012?  New York City.  It didn't make much sense to do the same challenge since I went everywhere on the subway, so my personal challenge that year was "No Meat March."  That has been my biggest challenge yet, but I made it through 31 days not eating any meat.

And so it's coming up on March again, and I will be starting a much different challenge than I've ever done before.  I have been thinking about what I should do for about a month now and have come up with something I am verrrrry excited about.

"Local fruits & veggies March"

I have always wanted to dial down the distance from where my food originates before it gets to me.  It's one of those "green" initiatives that I think is important for me to pay attention to.  Even the most "healthful" grocery stores in Austin (read: Whole Foods Market, Central Market) have fruits & veggies that come from all over the world.  During March, I will get all my fruits & veggies from Farmer's Markets, specifically from farmers who grow their veggies in Texas.

Step one, which I've already done, is to sign up for a CSA.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is a partnership between its members & the farmer.  CSAs allow local residents to have direct access to high quality, seasonal, fresh produce grown locally by regional farmers.  Becoming a member of a CSA means you're purchasing a "share" of the weekly crop from these regional farmers.

I have decided to become a CSA member with Johnson's Backyard Garden, an all organic local farm.  They are absolutely fantastic and are exactly what I'm looking for!  They grow all of their produce here in Austin and sell their seasonal fruits & veggies at all the local farmer's markets.  I signed up for 4 weeks worth of veggies (and will probably sign up for more, pending how this month goes).  Every Wednesday, I pick up my "share" from the Triangle farmer's market near my house.

Wanna see my first CSA share that I picked up yesteday??

Isn't that just beautiful?  From left to right at the top:  cabbage, brussels sprouts, rutabagas, bagged carrots, oranges, green apples, and a grapefruit.  What makes Johnson's Backyard Garden unique in the CSA world is that they let you leave behind some of the veggies they put in your share that you don't want & trade them out for ones that you do want from what they are selling at their farmer's market stand.  That is a deal, people!  So I got exactly what I wanted and got to leave behind the produce that I was pretty sure I wasn't going to eat.  This particular share is a 1-2 person share.  They sell 4 different sizes, and I get the smallest one.

What I love most about being a CSA member is that I am supporting local agriculture & am making tremendous strides in reducing my carbon footprint.  Why?  Because the produce doesn't have to be shipped in from Ecuador, or Mexico, or Brazil, or elsewhere around the world.  It is shipped from about 15 miles away.  Awesome!!  And by being a member of Johnson's Backyard Garden, I am supporting local ORGANIC agriculture.  What's better than that, right??

This March challenge also means that I will only be eating the veggies and fruits that are in season in central Texas.  If it's not sold at the farmer's markets, then I'm not eating it.  That's going to be the toughest part of this - feeding myself and Kellie from local, seasonal produce.  I'm used to eating pretty much whatever I want in the fruits & veggies world if it's sold at the grocery store.  Not this month, I won't!  :)  Besides fruits & veggies, eating a plant-based diet means I also eat from three other categories of food - nuts/seeds, whole grains (think rice & bread), and beans.  Those will continue to come from the grocery store, but I will be much more aware of where these foods are manufactured and packaged & choose ones that are as nearby as possible.

I'm really excited to see how I manage with this challenge.  It'll definitely be the hardest one yet, but it feels perfect for the way I now eat.  I'll continue to share my progress as the month goes along.  Wish me luck, folks.  :)


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