Love, Local Food, and Canned Peaches

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In college, I was madly in love with two things: the peaches my grandmother canned each summer and a tall man with an excruciatingly good palate. One September, I brought him a mason jar of these perfect, golden-yellow orbs, held under the lightest of simple syrups.

For months it sat, abandoned on his pantry shelf. He couldn't imagine it tasted any good. He kept talking about those awful fruit cups at summer camp, when he was thirteen. I told him, tough cookies, he needed to try these peaches or things would no longer be peachy between us. He tried the fruit and they stopped him in his tracks. With the glee of a six-year-old he exclaimed: "Hot damn. These are good."

There's a certain confusion--or maybe even snobbery--I hear every now and again in the sustainable food movement: a sense that local and seasonal has to mean fresh. At Yale, we need to feed 5,000 hungry undergraduates in the coldest months of a New England winter. We count on local farmers to grow food and local processors to put it up for us. There's strawberry jam made from just overripe berries and a salsa made from ingredients grown at Old Maids' Farm in South Glastonbury.

If anything, we need to increase the connections between farmers, distributors, and local processors. Frozen New England-grown berries for waffles. Edamame grown close to home. Pickles made right here for your burger. Carrots from our own root cellars. Five wicked-smart, entrepreneurial students at Yale's School of Management have just written a business plan for this type of venture.

These types of efforts need support. Venture capitalists could support local canneries. So could the federal government: developing local food systems can join solar power and wind power as part of the green jobs package. USDA grant programs, which need more funding than they currently have, can also lend a hand.

Oh, and that college boyfriend? His pantry is now stocked with home-canned peaches. His own.