A few days ago, while still in Kentucky (eating really bad college food) I dreamt that on Monday morning we would all wake up to a beautiful, glorious month of eating fresh, local, clean food. I've almost figured out just how much I will live into the Eat Local Food Challenge. Right now, I'm aiming to eat two meals each day from local sources. But this is easy for me since my usual breakfast consists of Mountain Rise granola over yogurt from a local creamery such as Evan's Family Creamery. For an extra protein shot I'll often add a boiled egg from Two Hearts Farm or McDonald Family Farm. So really, I'll have to work hard at making that second meal locally sourced.
Throughout the month, I'll continue to add local food sources to the panel on the left. And I'll continue to take suggestions for sources that should be added to the list. But if you are looking for a few easy ways to jump in, let me suggest these:
Shop your local food co-op. Co-ops try to source as many foods as possible from local producers. Plus, because co-ops are as much community centers as markets, they are great places to talk to folks about where the food sold comes from or to get direction about other places to look. When I go to the Syracuse Real Food Co-op I'm very likely to run into others who are seeking to eat sustainably and every once in a while, I'll end up bumping into the farmers themselves.
Shop your local farmers' market. Need I say more? Most farmers are only going to serve the markets that are relatively close to their farm. The chances of finding locally produced food is very high. But beware: at some markets, vendors are permitted to sell food distributed by large agribusiness companies. If you find oranges attractively displayed in August--you can bet they're not local. And if you find these oranges in Central New York--chances are they're not local. And if you see the Dole sticker still attached to the fruit--well, don't say I didn't warn you.
Speaking of which... Read the label. I'm frequently surprised to discover that a product that is regionally or even nationally available is produced right here in Central New York. You may already read labels to find out what's in your food, but also read the label to find out where it comes from. And take care to differentiate between the location of the distribution company and the location of the producer. Olive oil is distributed by companies quite nearby--but it is unlikley that the ollves are local. Decide if locally produced is just as okay as locally sourced. For instance, on Heather's blog, Viva Epicurea!, I realized that I might have to either give up chocolate for the challenge or claim it as an exemption. I'm going for the exemption--but I'll eat the chocolate that is produced locally from imported cacao beans.
Brake for road-side farmstands. This is the next best thing to visiting the farm. The food is sure to be local and you can often speak to the grower about their methods and spray policies (or lack thereof). You can be sure the food sold there will be local and fresh too.
Shop your supermarket--but be strategic. It actually is possible to buy locally produced foods from your major supermarket--you just have to be strategic about it. For instance, if you're racing through on a one-stop shopping trip, picking up Byrne Dairy milk and juice along side local produce (which may or may not be organic) can be accomplished pretty easily. You may have to take a little time to search out the local products but you can usually find some.