This month's APLS carnival is all about buying local. I pondered how I could write an intelligent post on all the reasons why you should by local (less fuel miles, supporting small business, creating community, lower environmental impact) without it being a lie. Sure all those reasons are true, but it is a life I have yet to live. So instead of preaching to the choir, I decided to take this opportunity to learn where the food in my cupboards comes from - besides the grocery store.
Some products were easily identified. Our Earthbound Farms organic potatoes state they are a product of Canada. As does our Spectrum canola oil. Our Eddie's pasta comes from Italy. I live in Wisconsin so you better bet my cheese is from my home state. Nearly all our dairy is from Wisconsin, not necessarily within 100 miles from my home, but not far out of that range. Our milk comes from farms ranging from southwest Wisconsin to Iowa. Other products took visits to websites and phone calls to find their true origin.
Twice a week we have meatless meals, usually consisting of pasta. I buy all our pasta in bulk from Amazon. One delivery every six months. I know it has to travel a ways, but it only comes twice a year all at once. As opposed to many trips to the grocery store. With all that pasta in the house we use a fair amount of pasta sauce. Dei Fratelli, which apparently comes from Ohio. I had to look on their website for this information.
Another thing we use a lot of is broth. I buy Swanson organic chicken and organic beef broth. Neither the box nor website disclosed where it originated. A phone call to customer service and a friendly Q&A with the rep divulged the code printed on the box: GF - Utah, SF - Stuben Foods, 27 - Minnesota, EST - Utah meat plant. Where they acquired the ingredients to make the broth still eludes me. So after decoding my broth boxes I learned that both my chicken and beef broths were packaged in Utah.
Our chicken and Sparboe eggs come from some 250 farms around Wisconsin and Minnesota. Gold'n Plump is a huge chicken processing company in these two states. Thousands of chickens are raised enclosed in huge barns on family farms. The Chitlins other parents being one of them. It is local-ish, but I know I can do better.
King Arthur flour I use to bake our bread is based in Vermont, but I am unsure of where the wheat they mill comes from. Hubby's Stonyfield yogurt is also Northeast based. Our frozen veggies come from the West coast. Our honey and apples are local. Our bananas, sugar, and salt are anything but. I am absolutely clueless where (and how) our beef and pork are raised.
Now that I have a better understanding where everything is traveling from it is time to source alternatives that fit my family. This fall I discovered one of the vendors at my farmer's market raises free-range chickens and sells eggs. He also has some produce available throughout the winter. Every week he emails a list of available products and delivers to a pick up spot on Fridays. Yea!
A few clicks on Sustainable Table and I was able to find a local listing of farmer's markets, CSA's, stores, farmers, and organizations in my area. Local Harvest is another website to find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area. Dairy was easy for me since I reside in the dairy state, but if you are looking for local dairy products check out the rBGH-free dairy map. Eat Wild is a resource I used to find local grass fed meat.
My food co-op features local products and I even noticed local foods popping up in the supermarkets. A scenic detour on the way to drop the chitlins off at their mother's unearthed an organic flour mill. I had been driving right past it every week! Even casual conversations have led to local leads. I am beginning to discover (with minimal effort) that I do have options.
Of course growing and preserving food from your own backyard is as local as it gets! While we are not there yet I do find inspiration in those who are living la vida local.
La Vida Locavore
Eat Local Challenge
100 Mile Diet
I am sure throughout 2009 you will be seeing posts about my trials and tribulations of eating local. Until then, you can read intelligent posts from those who are actually living the life, Sunday at the Green Phone Booth.