An Organic Market Gardener Talks About Feeding Her Young Family

©. Leslie M. – The kids munch on some kale.

Eating locally and seasonally takes on new meaning when you grow all your own vegetables.

Welcome to the latest post in TreeHugger's series, "How to feed a family." Every week we talk to a different person about how they approach the never-ending challenge of feeding themselves and other household members. We get the inside scoop on how they grocery shop, meal plan, and food prep to make it go more smoothly.

Parents work so hard to feed their children and themselves, to put healthy meals on the table, to avoid spending a fortune at the grocery store, and to fit it all around busy work and school schedules. It's a feat worthy of more praise than it commonly gets, which is why we want to highlight it – and hopefully learn from it in the process.

This week's interview is with Leslie, an organic market gardener and co-owner of Cedar Down Farm. She runs a Community Support Agriculture (CSA) program that I've supported for seven years. The organic vegetables that she and her partner Jeff grow are the best I've ever tasted, and always come accompanied with a newsletter full of mouthwatering recipes. As they live in a vibrant farming community, I thought it would be interesting to hear how she approaches meal prep in her own home.

Names: Leslie (39), Jeff (37), son (4.5), daughter (2.5)

Location: Grey County, Ontario, Canada

Employment: Self-employed small business owners, market gardeners

Weekly food budget: CDN$150 (USD$111)

Leslie & family

© Leslie M.

1. What are 3 commonly prepared meals in your house?

– Roast chicken and veggies of some kind (salad, roasted veggies, etc.)
– Rice bowl with veggies, beans, tofu or sometimes meat, nuts/seeds and a sauce
– Quesadillas

2. How would you describe your diet?

As organic veggie farmers in a small-farming community, we eat very locally and seasonally, with lots of vegetarian meals, but we are omnivorous. We are lucky to be able to grow most of our food or source it from friends so food is very fresh.

3. How often do you shop for groceries?

We shop once per week but buy a lot of what we can’t produce ourselves or source from friends or local farmers in bulk from the Ontario Natural Food Company. We make 5 or 6 bulk orders for things like rice, pasta, cheese, oil and vinegar and other kitchen staples. We shop every week for things like cream for coffee, butter, milk, fruit. We grow our own vegetables almost entirely and buy all meat from local farm friends in bulk once or twice per year.

Leslie's greenhouse

© Leslie M. – One of Leslie's greenhouses

4. Do you meal plan?

I do not meal plan! Never been able to do it. I usually plan what I will cook the day of or the day before. Because we buy all of our meat in bulk, I have to thaw things a day in advance if we want to eat meat (or soak dry beans).

5. How much time do you spend cooking each day?

1.5 to 1.75 hours. When asked about sources for recipe ideas, Leslie wrote, "I would say for recipes my go-to resources are Food52 and Smitten Kitchen. For cookbooks, Deborah Madison and Alice Waters are great for seasonal and veggie-based recipes."

7. How do you handle leftovers?

We eat them! I make a lot of large meals to be eaten as leftovers for lunch or again for dinner the next day.

arugula salad

© Leslie M. – A homegrown arugula salad

8. How many dinners per week do you cook at home vs. eat out or take out?

We almost never go out; we live rurally and going out options are limited and far. We may eat out twice per month or so.

9. What are the biggest challenges in feeding yourself and your family?

I fortunately do not have any challenges on that front. Our whole life is pretty geared towards food because of the work that we do and we are lucky to have the time and resources to access and be able to prepare food.

potatoes for roasting

© Leslie M. – Potatoes prepped for roasting

For all the stories in this series, see How to feed family. We want to hear from YOU! Please send us a DM on Instagram if you'd like to be featured.