Now that You’re a Local Family Too, What Do You Do

May 1, 2012 at 9:22 am

April was the month to commit to being a local family.  As I told you,

You need to start. You do not need to finish once you start, but you need to start and you need to think past the start. Now is a good time to start for a few reasons. Most importantly, it only makes sense to start when you can readily find local foods. The other main reason I want you to start eating local now is to get you attune to the pleasures of seasonal eating.

I should have also added that in April, we can start putting away food for later eating.

Towards being a local family, I told you what your year would look like. I provided a little side motivation (it’s green!). I ran through a lot of the kinds of foods you would find on an eat local diet. What I have not done much of yet, is give directions on finding your local food. Sure, I suggested a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture subscription, but what about the items not in your box? What do you have to do to eat local.

I guess I’ve been hyping up the local for a while because I don’t always like the practicalities. I mean I don’t like the difficulties still in eating local, so I don’t like talking about it with you. It’s like, hey, taste that tomato?

OK, tomatoes are an easy thing to discuss. Grow your own. Find some from your local farmer’s market. Hell, even my neighborhood grocery, Caputo’s, at the peak of summer, has local, quality, tomatoes. Other times, use what you’ve put up. And if you have not put any tomatoes, you have outstanding local options like my wife’s employer, Tomato Mountain. What besides tomatoes?

We can look at getting local foods two ways. We can speak of the places that sell local foods, and thats a good place to start. I’ll give a list in a second. Yet, I have to warn you that there is no single source, still, for all your local food needs. And that first source, farmer’s markets, vary greatly. So, if you live (or travel to) the Oak Park Farmer’s Market, you can get local meat and local eggs. If you shop at another farmer’s market, you may not find these things. Even in the world of fruit and veg, the variety between markets can be huge. Like I say, as good as a local tomato can be, we want to eat a bit more. Summing it up, the list below tells you generally where to get local food, but it won’t tell you where to find all the specific things we were listing the other day.

Find local food:

  • The Internet – Our friends Irv and Shelly bring you one of the most complete collections of local food each week, and there are times of the year when no one has more local food then them.  You can get a complete locavore diet here too.
  • Farmer’s Markets – Irv and Shelly may stock it, but is not it fun to feel and touch it.  I love farmer’s markets.  My inability to resist every farmer’s display led my family to becoming a Local Family.  In the Chicago area, we have an enormous amount of farmer’s markets.  The City of Chicago has like 50, and nearly every suburb has one.  There are year round markets, markets that start early, by April, and markets that run late, all the way to December.  The bulk of our markets run from June through October.  When we can count the markets on our hands (or maybe our hands and feet), we list each one in our weekly Local Calendar (the latest one here).  Otherwise, use our Market Locator to find a market near you.  (Last year’s one is here, we are in the process of updating it for 2012.)
  • Specialty Stores – Five years ago, Cassie Green and Gary Stephens opened Green Grocer Chicago, trying to make as much of their inventory as possible local.  They provide a outlet not just for produce but for a wide range of local products, from dairy to chickens to an excellent selection of local booze.  These days, Cassie and Gary don’t have the locavore market all to themselves.  We are especially pleased that guys like Cleetus Friedman, Rob Levitt and Paul Kahan have made it much (much) easier to get locally sourced meat.  Our Weekly Calendar always includes a list of stores selling local food.
  • Whole Foods – There are some eat local fans who would never set foot in a Whole Foods; there are others who use it for a range of goods including much dairy and some produce.  Whole Foods carries many locally produced goods, and usually, those things are marked out to call your attention to them.
  • Grocery Stores – Our bottom line belief is local food is where you find it, and as ugly and unglamorous as a Domin-ewel can be, There are times that they will have local food.  In fact, you may be able to go to one of these stores this week and find Michigan apples or Wisconsin potatoes.  The dairy case may contain “our kinda” milk.  As summer rolls around, you’ll be surprised how much local food  the grocery stores sell.  Sunset Foods on the North Shore, has a great relationship with an area farm.  Caputo’s, my Caputo’s, is awash in local foods from eggplants to peppers.  It was like January, and they were advertising local beets!

We’re not shy where we buy our local food.  Obviously, we like to buy it from farmers because we like farmers, and we like the opportunity to find out about our purchases.  Still, what we are looking for is local food.  If it’s onions at Aldi’s, so what.  It’s local.  We like it.  Now, getting back to those specifics, anything you cannot find, and think you can find, let us know, and we’ll tell you where we think you can get it.