The Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. NOFA/Mass welcomes everyone who cares about food, where it comes from and how it’s grown

Growing Organically Since 1982

Freezing Season

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2018 December Issue Newsletter

By Christy Bassett, The Organic Food Guide Coordinator for NOFA/Mass

Pork being butchered for packaging and freezing

Without the ease of a backyard garden supplying fresh vegetables or the hum of your local farmers market open for business, it can be challenging to continue to eat locally throughout the winter months in New England.  Sometimes I wonder how early settlers survived the frigid December weather without modern day food preservation conveniences like refrigerators, freezers and pressure canners.  Luckily, most of us do have these options available these days, which makes it much easier for us to prepare for several months without fresh food.

Yet, I find that the vast majority of people do not stock up before the snow strikes.  Even more surprising is the fact that many people don’t even own a chest freezer or have adequate shelf space for canned goods.  It’s as if we have forgotten that food does not actually come from the grocery store and that strawberries are not in season year-round.

I was one of those people for several years, before I fell in love with my food’s origin story.  We even took the effort to move the giant deep freezer that came with our house out of the basement and gave it to friends since we thought we had no use for it.  (I still kick myself when I think about that.)  Nowadays we have three chest freezers filled to the brim with homegrown and/or locally grown produce, milk and meat that are cycled through in succession each year.  We never have to worry about running to the market before a snow storm or not having access to the quality of food we want to eat throughout the year.

This type of preparation does take some planning though, and it’s a process that we adjust every year in the hopes of getting it just right.  The area that we focus most heavily on, is sourcing our meat from local, organically and humanely raised animals.  This allows us to support local families, preserve open land in our community, encourage sustainable farming methods, ensure quality of life for animals and guarantees the most nutritious food for our children.  With a growing family of four, we’ve found that we need to put away at least one whole pig, half of a beef animal, twenty chickens, and the occasional other additions to our meat supply (like fish, venison, goat, turkey or duck).

The most common time of year to fill your freezer with locally sourced meat is in the late fall/early winter.  This is typically when farmers are beginning to supplement grazing animals with more hay and/or feed, which leads to culling of non-breeding or non-producing animals to save on input costs.  November/December is also when spring born animals reach market weight, seasonal dairy animals dry off and older laying hens stop laying.  Even mother nature seems to hold back on sharing her light, preserving energy and tucking into bed early each day.  It seems appropriate for us to follow suit and keep only the most productive animals through the winter.

Now is the time to contact your local farmer, if you haven’t already, to inquire about purchasing a whole or half animal to feed your family.  By agreeing to take the entire animal, organs and all, as soon as it is packaged for consumption, you free the farmer from having to find space to store the meat for the rest of the year as it is sold piece by piece.  You also get a great variety of offerings, often times cut to order, providing a balance of nutrients and parts that you may never have tried before.

Search The Organic Food Guide for “beef”, “pork”, “chicken”, “lamb”, “goat” or other animal product to find a farm near you that sells organic and/or sustainably raised meat.  And if you haven’t done so yet, get out there and buy a chest freezer to start stocking up on locally grown food for your family.


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