How green is your spinach?
Local farmers' markets promise real flavor and a "greener" meal.
As the August issue of TulsaPeople highlights, summer is a great time for food. My personal favorite summer delicacy is a fresh, juicy tomato from the farmers’ market. These tomatoes, which come in hundreds of heirloom varieties, taste entirely different from what you can buy at the average grocery store — like tomatoes, in fact.
Whether you prefer tomatoes, spinach or strawberries, the choices at Tulsa area farmers’ markets are plentiful. Spreading across the city, from north Tulsa to Jenks, there is bound to be a market time and location that is convenient for you. I prefer the Brookside Farmers’ Market on Wednesday mornings at East 41st Street and South Peoria Avenue. You can find your market in the 2009 Farmers’ Market Guide at www.buyfreshbuylocalok.com, but hurry as most local markets close for the winter in late September or October.
The environmental impact of “food miles,” or the distance your food travels before you eat it, has been a hot topic over the last couple of years. However, there are many more reasons to buy local meats and produce.
My colleagues and I spent this summer piloting our new CHEFS Tool — Charting Emissions from Food Services. Our tool will estimate the environmental impact of food served in school or corporate cafeterias, from when the food was grown or raised through when it is ready to eat. While the results show that food miles do count, making processed foods and using beef and dairy have a much greater impact. So while fresh veggies and small portions of lean protein are healthiest, I’m happy to report that they also represent a “greener” meal.
Spending your grocery budget at a farmers’ market also keeps more of your money in the Tulsa economy. Sustainable Table estimates that 93 cents of every $1 spent at a mainstream grocery store “travels” to pay for the large processing and distribution network of the modern grocery system. Conversely, when you buy directly from a farmer, your money goes back to the local farm to be spent again in Tulsa. Keeping our dollars in the community is more important than ever this summer.
As a young professional pondering the future of our city, I’d like to see Tulsans eating more healthfully and keeping more of our food dollars in the local economy. Consider trading a salad made of local greens and tomatoes for your customary cheeseburger once this week. If you get the vibrant heirloom vegetables available at farmers’ markets across the city, I promise your meal will not be lacking for flavor.
Claire Roby is carbon accounting coordinator at Clean Air-Cool Planet, a nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying pragmatic solutions to global climate change. She is also an active member of the Sustainability Crew of Tulsa’s Young Professionals.