In support of local food

I can imagine some future brides poring over wedding magazines – looking at dresses, shoes and flowers. I pore over seed catalogs – ooohing and ahhhing over heirloom tomatoes and hot peppers. Mmmmm…romanesco cauliflower, blue ballet squash, yellow sunshine watermelon…these varieties are definitely wedding-worthy.

I was asked in an interview recently why we decided to take on this project (check out the Portland Press Herald article by clicking here). Why grow and cook the food for our wedding dinner? Why take on another potentially stressful task to prepare for our special day? The question really got me thinking. Was our motivation primarily to save money, be self-sufficient, feel connected to our food source, make some sort of statement about eating locally or just serve delicious, fresh food to our guests?

The answer is a combination of all of these reasons. Andy and I feel passionately about eating fresh, locally-grown food. We love the taste of fresh food. We also try to limit our negative environmental impact, so we eat food that has required less chemicals and fossil fuels to be grown and transported to us and thus has had a lighter impact on the earth. We are appalled by the way animals are treated in factory farms.

We also value community, and we see eating locally as a way neighbors can get to know each other through mutual support. We hope to help preserve the traditional farming lifestyle of New England so children understand where their food comes from and what goes into growing it. For all of these reasons, and probably several more, we strive to eat local food grown in a humane and sustainable way. Writing this blog is, I suppose, a statement in support of small farms. We do what we can to make a positive impact on the world, but we also do what makes us happy. We hope that others will do the same.

Planting cucumbers in black plastic

It makes us happy to work on projects. We’re not the type of people who spend much time sitting around. When living in Portland, I used to run a lot. Now I garden.

It’s hard to explain why we get so much satisfaction from providing for our own needs. In the last year we’ve cut all our own firewood, smoked our own bacon and ham, brewed our own beer, boiled sap into maple syrup, canned pickles and applesauce and froze many different fruits and vegetables. Partly, we do this to save money, but it’s about more than just that. The food tastes better when we preserve it ourselves. The pile of wood keeps us active and outside while cutting and then keeps us warm all winter.

Potatoes

The wedding garden is also an experiment that we hope to learn from in planning future gardens. We are planning to start our own small, diversified farm in the near future, and we will need to do the same sort of planning that went into this garden, just on a larger scale. I’m keeping meticulous records (in this sense I truly am my mother’s daughter). For every crop, we’re keeping track of how much we planted, how much space it took up and how many pounds of product we get out of it. Keeping track of what it all costs will also help us plan future, larger gardens.

Bags of rocks to weigh down row cover -- using the resources we have

Money is also a factor in our decision. As both of us are the type to choose low paying jobs because we enjoy them, neither of us has ever had a lot of money. We are trying to keep our wedding expenses low so we can use our hard-earned savings for farm start-up expenses. Our most recent wedding budget has us spending somewhere between $6,000-7,000 total, with somewhere around $1,500 of that being for food. We were joking that few wedding budgets include things like chicken feed and potting soil. Our budget numbers are still very rough, though, and they could be way off. Check back later for an updated budget.

It helps in taking on this task that we don’t feel like we’re entering this endeavor as total beginners. Though we haven’t done it commercially, we aren’t brand new to farming. My parents moved to Maine as part of the back to the land movement, joining other city folk searching for a more meaningful lifestyle close to the land. As a child, I learned about growing food, raising chickens and preserving food. Andy grew up in the country too. He had his own garden as a child.

As adults, we’ve each spent two seasons working for other farmers. Last summer we spent the summer together working at Dandelion Spring Farm, just to make sure we still wanted to farm together before we bought land. Despite the relentless rain, we had a great summer. During summers when we haven’t worked on farms, we’ve usually had gardens in our yards or at community gardens. Our wedding garden will be the largest either of us has planted on our own.

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8 responses to “In support of local food

  1. Great post Julia! But where’s this PPH article you mentioned?! Do you have a link for it? I tried finding it online and couldn’t… Very exciting though — can’t wait to read it! xo

  2. The article will be in the paper next Wednesday (June 9). Thanks for your comment!

  3. Julia – how great to see the story in the PPH this morning! Sounds like you’re doing really well. I love this project you and Andy have taken on – best of luck, and congrats!

  4. Julia – I discovered this blog reading the Portland Press today. I want to say that I really like what you are doing! Over this past year my thoughts about food and where it comes from have done a full turn. I’m searching for organic meats and local produce now, when a year ago, I could have cared less. I look forward to your future posts – I can’t wait to see your final result!!

  5. Hi Julia and Andy,
    Congratulations and good luck on everything. This is an amazing project and undertaking — much like marriage itself. There’s nothing like a huge overwhelming project undertaken together to erase any questions about whether you can make it work or not. It reminds me of how Margaret and I started our lives together and began heading down these same roads (marriage and farming). To show our support, Margaret and I would like donate some of our goat cheese for the wedding dinner. Give us a call or email. Look forward to hearing from you.

    best wishes,
    Karl Schatz and Margaret Hathaway
    Ten Apple Farm

  6. Hi Julia and Andy!

    I just read the article about your ambitious endeavor in the PPH and had to stop by and say hello. I am also getting married at the end of August, a time of year we picked because everything is ripe and delicious. We live on a small in-town lot so we don’t really have room to grow everything for a wedding, but we would probably try if we had the room because we both grew up with huge gardens and some animals. I am however attempting to grow as many flowers as possible and plenty of food for us for the rest of the summer. I invite you to check out my own blog – one of your entries mentioned unconventional wedding checklists, which I also went on a rampage about recently when we checked “put new clapboards on house” off of our own list! I shared the article with a few other like-minded brides I know and wish you both the best of luck.
    Jessie

  7. Dear Julia and Andy,

    I also just found your blog via the PPH today. I am a local Maine photographer, and am also working on a documentary project I would love to share with you. If interested, I would love to talk with you about photographing your garden progressing and your upcoming wedding. Best of luck on all endeavors – Sarah

  8. This is just fabulous, and SO the kind of thing I’d love to do. I love growing my own food. Unfortunately I have a bad back and am currently living in the suburbs (i’m a country kid) so my gardening space and time is limited. Our budget for our commitment ceremony isn’t much more than yours, but almost all of it is for food (kosher catering). It’s such a bummer, I’d much rather do the cooking myself. Ah well. We’re trying to find a caterer who’s willing to use local produce as much as possible, at least, and will probably do a vegetarian or fish menu so as to minimize environmental impact. But there’s nothing like growing it yourself!

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