A Few Days Left in April to Commit to Being a Local Family – Use Local Food

April 27, 2012 at 9:03 am

April is the month we’ve been telling you to join us as a local family.  When we last discussed your journey, I provided a little background motivation, getting greener by being local.  Today, let’s get back to some practicalities.  For instance, what does the local diet look like.  It surely can include some steaks (those came from a cow raised by our pal Farmer Vicki Westerhoff).

Canadians Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon helped bring the idea of eating local to the world with a series of blog posts on their “100 mile diet.”  The compiled those posts into a book called Plenty.  Youc an read how they set a very strict requirement for their eating.  What they had on hand when they started, or within 100 miles would be their diet.  So, a lot of their story is about all the work they had to do to get food within their 100 miles.  They were especially vexed in getting grains, and when things were bad they made sandwiches with turnips as the “bread”.  Don’t do that.

No one committing to becoming a local family has to have peanutbutter and jelly on turnips, nor does one have to seperate the mouse droppings from the wheat, in another memorable part of their local grain quest.  The first thing I always tell people about eating local is “don’t make yourself nuts trying to eat local.”  The second thing I might tell them is a quote I picked up a few years back from Illinois farmer, Stan Schutte.  ”Local is as far as it takes you to get what you want.”  In other words,  get your oranges or your bananas, sea salt and pepper.  It won’t ruin your locavore experience.

I say all that because I want the pressure off.  Relax.  Don’t make yourself nuts.

Now, go and eat as much as you can from nearby.


Does local have to be within a magic 100 mile boundary.  I do not think so.  Certainly not if you live in an area that is highly urban for one thing, and bordered on a great lake for another, your 100 mile limit would exclude a lot of the farms that sell in area markets.  I tend to say my “foodshed”, my zone I use for my local food, is the Big Ten Conference.  Those states around the Great Lakes from Ohio to Minnesota.  Although, aside from wild rice, I’m not really looking at the states furthest from Illinois.

What can I get within my foodshed.  In this post, I’ll cover what’s out there.  In my next post, I’ll cover what you have to do to get it or where you have to go to find local food.

Let’s start with the raw materials.  You can find dairy including milk, cheese, kefir, butter, yogurt, and sour cream; eggs, including duck eggs; meats, pretty much all kinds of meat, even a goose if I want; and when we want fish, we can choose one from our lakes; fruits and vegetables, our climate produces a huge bounty and only in dark winter and early spring do we need to get a mango or such.  The availability of local grains has greatly increased in recent years, and one can find items ranging from wheatberries to oats.  We have excellent local cornmeal.  Don’t go nuts, but you can find local nuts including black walnuts and hickory nuts.  What about sunflower seeds.

Let’s look at some decisions you may or may not want to make.  Sugar.  There’s locally grown beet sugar, but there may be GMO issues associated with that.  You can use local honey to sweeten or local maple syrup.  This Local Family does not swear off of cane sugar, but uses other stuff too.  Your fat of choice, as Mario Battali always puts it, is?  Again, you can stay local and use lard, butter or locally produced vegetable oils.  Personally, we don’t hold to this, using olive oil mostly.  Flavorings, we make our own chili powder from locally grown peppers, and we dry herbs, but we keep a wide spice drawer. I’ll say, not sure where this fits in, that we use some locally produced vinegars, but we use plenty that aren’t, and we use lemons and limes too.

We make as big an effort as possible to use prepared foods from our region.  We never buy anything but local beer, and why not, we have so many choices.  We almost never buy local wine, although we think there’s a great case made by Wendy for getting more Michigan wines.  We’re lucky that our local Caputo’s grocery carries the deli turkey from Michigan’s Legacy.  We love Nueske for ham and bacon.  We splurge when we can on Milk and Honey granola.  Really, we don’t have one big list of local foods.  Something specific, ask us.  What we do is just look for the local.  Fresh pasta, we look and find a brand like RP from Madison, Wisconsin.  That kind of thing happens all the time.  We just find local.  We believe a local family eats more than fruits and vegetables because we do.

This is the time of year to commit to being a local family because you can start buying freshly grown foods at the markets.  This is the time to commit to becoming a local family because your first CSA boxes will arrive.  Still, as you enjoy your local asparagus and your local sorrel, don’t forget your local meat and your local eggs.  You don’t have to get everything from around here, but commit to getting as much as you can from around here.