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To market, to market, to market

There is no question that Sue is the catalyst for just about all the inspiration toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Not that I’m not a willing participant, but without a nudge from her, there is little doubt that we wouldn’t be trying to find, say, a homemade version for dish detergent that degreases like Dawn or Palmolive.

“We’re going to build our own kayak rack!,” she says. And we do!... or should I say, she does: She designs it and builds it. I’m basically the muscle and moral support.

But that’s OK with me. I know my role. I wrote in the bio of this website that I’m not retired, I just act like it. And there’s some truth to that. I enjoy the more mundane chores, like grocery shopping, stacking the wood, collecting kindling, etc. Not exactly big picture things, but necessary nonetheless.

I’ve turned grocery shopping into an artform, working to make sure we buy local and environmentally friendly as often as possible. My walls of bulk ingredients and spices is my masterwork. To watch me navigate the grocery aisles, scouting for local products and rejecting packaged goods is like Tom Brady scanning the field for the open receiver (blatant football reference, Go Pats!)

I have been known to spend a good five minutes debating the lettuce – do I go with the local leaves in the plastic container or the unpackaged organic head from California? Brutal choice.

It is possible that some of my Saturday mornings can consist of 3 different grocery stores and a farmers’ market before I return home for second coffee. I find grocery shopping to be a pleasure, especially if I do it early before the crowds.

There’s definitely a science to my shopping:

First stop (usually once a month): River Valley Co-op in Northampton is where we get most of our bulk ingredients: sugar, flour, spices, oils, etc. They also have the best selection of local vegetables and handmade, environmentally friendly products. It’s also an expensive place to shop, so one has to be wary of not overdoing it. When the farmers’ markets are in season, it’s best to slow your roll at the co-op.

Second stop: Whole Foods, for granola (Back Roads from Brattleboro, VT), Mapleline milk (in glass bottles!, made right down the road from our house in Hadley), and a few other key items. Another store where you don’t want to overbuy because of the cost.

Third stop: Big Y, our regular grocery store. Kudos are well-deserved for this place. They do a really good job of providing a ton of local products mixed in with the national brands. Coffee from Florence, Mass. (part of Northampton), hamburger meat from Hardwick, produce and fruit from local farms. And they get extra credit for their store soundtrack, which ranges from Cream to Sinatra to Neil Young.

Fourth stop: The Farmers’ Market in the center of Amherst is a good one. It doesn’t rise to the level of Ithaca’s market, but it has a good mix of vendors. It’s here you get the full array of local fruit and produce: Next Barn Over for bok choy, Old Friends for carrots and tomatoes, Apex Orchards for apples and pears are just a few of the great finds. I always stop at Chase Hill Farm’s tent to pick up some pork chops and taste their cheese. Jiang Farm’s shishito peppers were the prize of the summer for us.

Then it’s time to head home. Driving along the back roads past the horse paddocks and tobacco barns, I can’t resist one more stop. The sweetest corn in the Valley comes from J&J’s farm stand on the side of the road.

By then, I’m spent and have earned that second coffee.

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