Adventures in local eating

If you follow this even semi-regularly, it’s no secret that we make an effort to source a good chunk of our food (and other goods, when possible) locally. We’ve recently (in the past year or so) made bulk meat purchases from local farmers, we frequent several area farmer’s markets, and we’ve always grown, or in some cases, foraged, plenty of other edibles on site. We’re nowhere near getting everything locally (for example, we still buy oranges and rice, I love seafood, and I’m a sucker for pita chips), but we’ve been gradually moving in that direction.

Is it easy?

If you’re comparing it to driving to the nearest grocery store and loading up, then no. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. Yes, there are certainly some challenges. For starters, nothing grows in Ohio for about half the year, which is pretty limiting when it comes to getting fresh, local produce. There are a few winter-hardy vegetables, I can some things so we do have something to eat during the winter, and thank goodness for winter squash and potatoes, but a good sun-warmed tomato or a juicy peach? Not happening.

So, yes, it may take a little more effort (particularly during the winter) to hunt down a farmer’s market or even a regular grocer (Heinen’s in our area does a decent job) that carries local foods, but with the proliferation of markets over the past several years, there should be something close for many people.

Isn’t it more expensive?

Potentially, for some things; for others, it can be cheaper. Depending on where you’re at, and what season you’re in, buying from a local farmer may indeed cost more than heading to your local Walmart Supercenter. Buying at a market will likely be a little pricier than a roadside stand down the street. On the other hand, buying our meat in bulk, even with it being grass-fed/free-range, is cheaper than buying pieces individually in any store. Our beef averaged out to $3/lb – I challenge you to find T-bone and porterhouse steaks for $3/lb anywhere else.

Is it worth it?

It probably depends on who you ask, but for us, it’s a resounding yes. I’m not going to lie and say that, all of a sudden, my hair is shinier and I smell better and my teeth are whiter. Honestly, I haven’t really seen a whole lot of tangible benefits, but I don’t think I was expecting any either – it’s more internal (literally and figuratively). I know that eating something that came from 20 miles away is most likely fresher and more nutrient-dense, and less likely to come from giant industrial “farms” than something that came from California (and was probably picked two weeks ago).

On top of that, we’re supporting the local economy. I’m not typically inherently against large corporations, but for me it’s worthwhile to support the mom-and-pop hardware store or the independent drugstore, which in many cases are part of the very history and fabric of the communities in which they reside. For some people, it’s no big deal, but I feel a little bit warmer and fuzzier when I’m giving my dollars to someone who just lives in the next town over.

I understand that not everyone can just buy everything local. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense logistically. Sometimes it’s not feasible financially. I know – I’d love to get everything I eat from my backyard, or from a backyard near mine, but it doesn’t usually work out that way. We have a budget just like everyone else, and not everything grows right down the street. In some cases, you have to change the way you eat. We’ve recently been heavy on hardy greens and root vegetables and squash and brassicas. In the summer, our menu will be focused around beans and salads and peppers and tomatoes. Do we follow that absolutely? Absolutely not. Could we follow it more absolutely? Without a doubt. Will we ever reach that absoluteness? Eh, probably not the perfect world we imagine. But we’re getting there, and enjoying every step along the way.

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