Making Local Easy

. January 24, 2013.

Local foods taste better. Something about connecting with farmers to learn where food comes from inspires a confident pride, knowing you have spent your hard earned dollars to support the local community. You can eat “local,” just like the movies and books all talk about. It’s got to be easy to understand and easy to fit into your busy life.

Finding local foods

Farmers’ markets are a traditional way to meet farmers and ask them about the products brought to market. Talk with them about their growing practices and what will be in season during the upcoming months. Markets are available on varying days throughout the seasons.

Online markets such as Lunasa, a recently established online farmers’ market, offers patrons year-round access to a variety of local foods with a twice per month in-person pick up. This concept provides patrons with an opportunity to learn about farmers and their products from the comfort of their home while making smart purchases without any pressure. On pick up day, like a farmers’ market, patrons can meet the farmers and build relationships with them while picking up products purchased online as well as purchase additional items.

CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) allows shoppers to pre-pay for produce a whole season at a time. Farmers then divvy up goods into “shares” each week. Shoppers may pick up their share at the farm providing a farm experience, valuable for adults and children alike, while some growers deliver to farmers’ markets for convenience. In addition to produce CSA’s, there are also frozen meat and frozen produce CSA’s becoming available.

Making your money count

Buying clubs and bulk ordering are a couple of ways to stretch your dollars. Get a few neighbors, church groups, work teams or friends together and ask farmers about buying bulk quantities like bushels of corn, quarter of cows and cases of butter. Most farmers are open to creating opportunities. Take turns with your group members making the trek to pick items up. Then bring the items to a designated house and split accordingly.

How to start

Choose a few things that are most important to you such as meats, dairy, eggs and produce. You might choose to purchase just ground beef or eggs with yolks that are chock full of vitamins. How about starting with fruits and vegetables? The EWG (Environmental Working Group) offers a list of “The Dirty Dozen” (there’s even an iPhone app for it), the top twelve produce itemwith the most chemicals found on them (with celery topping the chart). Another list follows “The Clean Fifteen”; the top fifteen items safest to eat when grown conventionally.

Easing into local

Like any change in life, ease into it little by little. You do not have to go all “local” at once, or ever. Any change in your buying habits is a huge change to our local economy. Start with the easiest items, add a few more in the following weeks and eventually, before you know it, you will be looking down at your first plate of all locally sourced foods. And little by little, that warm feeling will wash over you. Confident in your purchases, connected to your community, secure that local food is available and inspired that it is possible for you and your family
to eat well. You have done it. You went “local.”

Dawn Thompson is a co-owner of Lunasa Market. From the greater Ann Arbor area, Dawn enjoys guiding patrons to locally-owned, locally grown items.