by Rick Marshall
Even though we had an awesome garden last year, we still shopped our local farmer’s market to supplement our food supply. No matter how terrific your garden is, sometimes, you need a bit more food to feed the family. And, it doesn’t hurt to have a bit more variety as well.
More Minibeds added, more variety grown
Converting our garden to Herrick Kimball’s Minibeds on Plastic gardening system helped us create the most productive growing space possible. (Read more here about our garden makeover.) We used the additional time at home during quarantine to enlarge our garden with more Minibeds. At the same time, expanding the varieties of what we were growing to provide us with more choice. Everything we planted grew very well. By July, we had a garden in full production. Upgrading our garden helped us become more self-reliant and increased food security for us during and after the pandemic.
The Minibeds on Plastic system didn’t provide us with an overwhelming amount of food. But it did significantly expand the variety of vegetables growing in the garden. Our garden changed quite a bit and grew very quickly.
Our first harvest was small, but we were excited!
By June, we started harvesting our produce. It wasn’t much but included Better Boy Tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Jalapeno Peppers, Sweet Peppers, Tomatillos, and a Zucchini.
We had several weekly harvests throughout the growing season.
Grow what you can, and supplement the rest
Our garden produced well every week and we ate most of what we grew. Nothing went to waste.
Many of us experienced the fragility of the supply chain and food supply during the pandemic. It seemed the supply issues radically affected both home cleaning supplies and the supply of meat. The continuing problems the food supply faced during Covid caused concern there would be severe food shortages in the late fall and throughout the winter. We realized we couldn’t rely on grocery stores as food shortages and rationing began to hit our area. So we started canning and dehydrating anything that we produced above what we were eating.
Beginning in the fall, every time we harvested the garden, we canned some of the produce. We were getting lots of fruit and vegetables from our garden throughout the summer months, and it was plenty for us. But we needed something more to supplement our food supply to get us through the lean late fall and winter months. Illinois winters can be long and cold, and in the spring, it might not be until June when the garden starts producing again.
So, we looked for a way to supplement our garden produce supply.
Best Farmer’s Market ever!
We live on the edge of the suburbs, about 20 miles from St Louis. St Louis has a wonderful farmer’s market, the best we have ever found. If you haven’t visited it and get the opportunity, please do. It is called the Soulard Farmer’s Market. Located just south of downtown St Louis, the farmer’s market has all the fruit, vegetables, bread, and meat you could ever need.
Most (but not all) of the fruits and vegetables at the farmer’s market are locally grown. We developed a relationship with one of the local vendors and would buy large amounts of fruit and vegetables to supplement what we grow in our garden.
Last year our daughter began making organic dog food for her two dogs. She uses an enormous amount of rice, zucchini, carrots, and a few other items. We wanted to ensure we had enough to keep the dogs fed this winter, along with a pantry full of vegetables we could use for soups, pizza sauce, salsa, and snacks. So, on one visit to the Soulard Farmer’s Market, we purchased 200 pounds of tomatoes, 200 pounds of carrots, 200 pounds of zucchini, 200 pounds of jalapenos, and 200 pounds of tomatillos for canning!
Daisy shares a link in this article for 9 vet-approved homemade dog recipes so you can help your pups thrive.
We spent all weekend canning those vegetables.
Develop good relationships with vendors
If you aren’t a farmer and don’t have access to enough land or expertise to grow all the food you need, you can supplement your food by purchasing what you need from the farmer’s market. I highly recommend building good relationships with the vendors.
One vendor at Soulard market gave us an outstanding price on the produce. Lower than we could have bought them for in the supermarket. And he had an unlimited supply! Our relationship developed, and we put an order in with him early in the week. On Saturday, we would stop by the farmer’s market to pick up the order. He was fantastic to work with, and the variety of fruits and vegetables he could provide was incredible.
I’m sure most cities have their version of the Soulard Farmer’s Market. And, produce vendors will be more than willing to sell you as much as you need.
A family that cans together…
We found lots of resources on YouTube for videos on how to can, and it was a fun time. Even if you live in an urban or suburban area, you can still stock up on organic food to prepare for times when you need it.
We had five people in the kitchen slicing, shredding, peeling, boiling the food, and having a great time. We did this together as a family and shared the food among our three families. By sourcing the farmer’s market we also helped produce vendors through a difficult time caused by the pandemic. Food production slowed down and the number of people willing to go to the farmer’s market decreased.
We made two or three trips to the Soulard Market to stock up. The result was full pantries for three families and a great sense of relief. No matter what happened with the supply chain, we still had food security for the winter months. Our pantry lasted us all year.
Oh, in June, we made some wonderful soup from the last of our Butternut Squash we harvested from the garden last fall. The Butternut Squash kept well in our dark, cool basement, and we enjoyed the tasty soup.
Now we have beautiful relationships, peace of mind and are closer to self-reliance
By eating what we grow and supplementing with produce from the farmer’s market, we provide our family with peace of mind. We have met some wonderful people along the way dedicated to growing organic food and selling it directly from producer to consumer. It is always nice to eliminate the middle man and have as few hands as possible touch our food before we eat it.
We were able to process the food ourselves and had plenty for our three families as we shared our resources. This year we are planning the same thing. The garden is up and running, and we have added a few more Minibeds to the system. And we will continue the relationships we built at the farmer’s market.
Do you have a favorite farmer’s market?
If you are looking for stability in your food supply, it might be worth your time to visit your local farmer’s market. The vendors and farmers need your business as much as you need their produce. Have you visited your local farmer’s market recently? Have you supplemented your food supply with locally grown produce? Tell us and other readers about it in the comments section below.
About the Author
Rick Marshall lives in the Illinois suburbs of St Louis and founded the Mission Endure Website and Podcast.