There are a couple of things I’ve noticed about social media.
First, I really am influenced by messages I receive throughout the week about what I might want to buy for cooking meals, where I might wish to plan my next trip, or how I decide to choose spend some of my discretionary funds to purchase a book for upcoming summer reading.
For example, this week I saw that Stilwell Strawberries had just been received at the Urban Agrarian, I “Tweeted” them a question asking if they would be bringing some to the Edmond Farmer’s Market opening day, and received this reply back: “Absolutely.” Immediately, I began planning what to cook for my family on Sunday night, but more so, I COULD begin that planning because of the social tools we now use today. I had heard a “rally cry” that began in the eastern Oklahoma strawberry fields and had been carried through the central OKC relay system, with the end result landing on my kitchen table.
Second, because of social media, the producers in Oklahoma have become personal to me. I’ve intentionally shifted my food budget from approximately 10-15% local purchases two years ago, to approximately 50% or more local purchases today. Every month when I read the Oklahoma Food Cooperative‘s “Producer Notes” I get to hear what is going on at the farm/ranch level. I get to learn how it is that I have new product choices or why it is that certain weather or economic factors influence what I choose for a particular month.
I can plan my own garden because I know I’m more or less likely to get certain crops at the market every year at pretty decent prices, therefore I plant to harvest what I know will help me save money and I have the best chance of growing successfully….and that complements what I can already get through our local food distributions systems here in the state. I can ask questions about certain products or swap recipes (or send photographs of the final products!) to my connections on Facebook and Twitter which then helps all of us gain more ideas about how to manage and balance our food purchases and inventory.
In other words, just two years after I started building a social media network comprised of locally focused resources that interest me, I feel more informed and competent about running my own household and my own life here in central Oklahoma. And, I have a much greater sense of connection to those in Oklahoma who are producing healthy, local food. And finally, I count myself in that bunch to a degree because I really enjoy the goodness I get from my garden in so many ways.
I’m writing this post because I’ve recently received a few messages from people who feel “inadequate” in terms of growing gardens or cooking locally. The majority of these notes were from people younger than I who expressed self-doubts about whether or not they could “grow anything.” I hope I have conveyed a bit of the elements to begin your own gardening or local consumption. If not, they are very simply 1) start small and remember everything is an experiment; 2) remember you experiment with many other things in your life – clothes, certain foods, certain activities, etc. Just because a garden is a “live” thing doesn’t make it any different; 3) share information and ask for help. That’s how I’ve gotten to where I am today. I’m on my fourth garden and am just now feeling like a more confident grower.
So, I’m wishing all of you “just beginning gardeners” good luck! I’m hoping for all you who have access to local food systems such as farmer’s markets to see how you can maximize their capacity for your own home. And, I’m just letting you know that I was basically clueless about all of this four years ago.
But…I’m not any more! So, I’m going to leave you today with a few photos of exactly what we did with those Stilwell strawberries. We made a beautiful, delicious dessert that complimented our local asparagus, our wilted lettuce from my garden, our cheese grits with cilantro from my garden, and our local char-broiled chicken breasts last night. Feast with your eyes, and enjoy the idea if you decide to take it to your own table!
After baking the pastry in the ramekins, we let them cool then pulled out the shells and filled them. We filled them 1/2 full with basic sweet cream cheese filling, and then topped it with fresh Stilwell strawberries that had been cleaned, sliced and folded into some homemade apricot-lime preserves for sweetening. You can simply sweeten with sugar, but if you have preserves that would complement the flavor, then use them! Then, add a dollop of whipped cream, a “topper” and have a beautiful, easy dessert with your family.