Whatever you’re feeding your family, do you know where it comes from? You might have a clue if you’re a locavore. That’s the going lingo for folks who try to buy and eat food that’s grown or produced within a 50 to 150 radius of their home. Think farmers’ markets, food co-ops – even as near as the backyard garden.
Interested in jumping on board and eating grub that’s fresh, supports your local economy and curbs your impact on the environment? We found 10 practical tips from Eat Local Challenge contributor Jennifer Maiser.
1. Shop at farmers’ markets. Sales at farmers’ markets help small farms stay in business. There’s no middleman when shoppers buy produce straight from the grower, which means fruits and vegetables haven’t been trucked in from locations unknown hundreds of miles away.
2. Lobby the local supermarket. Ask where the meat, produce and dairy came from. Managers know that for each customer asking the question, several others want to know. A show of interest may result in a supermarket changing its sources.
3. Start small. Choose five foods in your home that can be bought locally and pursue them first. Then expand the locavore practice. Fruits and vegetables grown in Michigan include apples, pears, cherries, strawberries, lettuce, corn, root vegetables like potatoes and carrots, and many herbs. For animal products, try meat, poultry, eggs, milk and cheese.
4. Preserve. Canning at home is almost a lost craft. But to continue locavore practices in the winter months, learn how to can and preserve fruits and vegetables. Also try making products like applesauce, apple butter, jams and jellies. Browse the web to learn how to can food.
5. Support select restaurants. When dining out, ask restaurant managers where they get the ingredients for their recipes. Frequent those that support regional farms.
6. Buy from local vendors. If you can’t find locally grown, settle for locally produced. Support the local economy by buying from area businesses that make their own jams, bread, roasted coffee and more. Skip the Wonder Bread at the supermarket and buy from a bakery. Forego Bud and drink micro-brewed beer.
7. Visit a farm. Southeast Michigan is home to many farms within an hour’s drive of metro Detroit. When time allows, farmers are usually happy to show a family, classroom or Scout troop around the farm. Knowing how food gets from the farm to the dinner table is important – for kids and adults.
8. When in season, visit a pick-your-own farm. Strawberries and raspberries are popular favorites.
9. Grow your own. If there’s space in the backyard, plant your own potatoes or green beans. Tomatoes can be grown almost anywhere, even in pots on the balcony.
10. Buy a share. Invest in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm by purchasing a share in exchange for a weekly collection of vegetables or other products like eggs or meat. Some give a discount for prepaying quarterly or yearly.