Moving toward local eating: Awareness

Choosing vegetablesPart of the “Moving toward local eating” series

What is produced in my area? When? Is it seasonal, or available year-round? What’s it cost to buy?

These are pretty fundamental questions, and while the answers mostly stay the same (especially about what’s in season when), availability can change as new farmers come online or change their offerings fairly frequently.

For some ideas about what’s available when, see:

  • PickYourOwn.org is a great resource for locating pick-your-own farms, figuring out what’s in season, and deciding how much to pick to fill those jars.
  • LocalHarvest.org lists farm markets, CSAs, and such for the whole country.
  • Real Time Farmslets you know what’s in your local market today. Very handy if you need something specific and the market is a 10 mile drive away.  Also tells you what restaurants are serving local food in your area.
  • Eden Foods sells many, many organic foods grown and processed in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and SW Ontario (just across from Detroit).  In addition, they have the most stringent anti-GMO measures I’ve ever heard of (food is tested multiple times from seed to harvest to delivery at the processing plant), they soak their beans before cooking, and they don’t use any BPA in their cans.
  • Dei Fratelli tomatoes and tomato products are grown and processed near Toledo, Ohio.  They use San Marzano tomatoes, which are really super tasty. If you are looking for really good, Midwest-grown, and honestly, cheap tomato products, seek them out.

And don’t forget to read labels.  I was pretty surprised to learn that Meijer organic apple juice is from Turkey, for example.  Meijer and Hiller’s are getting very good about labeling locally-grown produce.  You could easily stock up on a winter’s worth of squash, potatoes, and apples there.  Meijer is apparently also pretty fair with the pricing they give farmers (don’t know about Hillers) – so if farm markets don’t work for you, consider those sources.

For folks outside of Michigan, you’ll have to do a little more digging.  Any of my out-of-state readers…do you have any good lists of local foods you’d like to share?

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9 Comments

  1. Sarah said,

    January 18, 2011 at 11:03 am

    My understanding was that last year a law was passed making country of origin labeling (COOL) mandatory for produce, so that’s why Meijer and others are labeling where the produce comes from.

    As a result, there have been more than a couple times that I’ve realized I can live without the out of season asparagus from Peru, or the bell peppers from Mexico because I think not only of the fuel it took to ship these items, but of the lax (or no existent) regulation of some of the most dangerous pesticides in those countries.

    I look forward to reading the rest of this series!

    • Emily said,

      January 18, 2011 at 11:13 am

      That is a really great point, Sarah! If you think the chemicals American farms use are scary, you should be terrified of those used abroad. And think of what those chemicals do to the farmers – farmers in Central America are suing because so many have gone sterile due to farming chemicals.

  2. Alan said,

    January 18, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Very Cool Project! We are taking on the whole local food thing as a life shift. By the end of the year we plan to be 99% local (coffee, some spices, salt, and a few other things we will import, but all the basics will be local)

    To help us get going and to plan for next winter we have started Local Food Fridays (usually posted sometime on the weekend cause fixing food trumps blogging…) We are trying to create one meal a week from 100% local food. Way more challenging than I thought it would be.

    Reading ingredients in great, and important, but actually making the whole meal from local food is the only way to really start grappling with the issue.

    That’s what I’d add to your challenge.

    • Emily said,

      January 18, 2011 at 11:18 am

      Good for you, Alan! I see you live in east-central Ohio. Let me know if you find products from our region that we might find in grocery stores up here – I’d love to update my list. (Dei Fratelli and Eden Organics come to mind as two that might count as “local enough” for you.)

  3. Cynthia said,

    January 21, 2011 at 2:00 am

    COOL laws don’t require stores to say what state their food is from, just what country. So Meijer and Hiller are going above and beyond the law when they highlight what products are made in Michigan. YAY! For a local source of canned tomatoes, I really like Red Gold brand. They are also made here. Plus, most dried beans you buy are grown here in Michigan – we are a top producer of dried beans here in the U.S. You can be guaranteed that virtually any store brand of dried beans have been grown here, and they are a much better value than canned. Also another good value local brand is Prairie Farms milk.

    • Emily said,

      January 21, 2011 at 10:38 am

      Cynthia – What’s your source for the bean info? I’m trying to pull together a list of just this kind of fact “Most store brand dried beans are grown in Michigan” “Most dried cherries are grown in Michigan” – that sort of thing. I know we grow a ton of dried beans in Michigan, but I also remember hearing that most were shipped overseas by the freight container…but I can’t remember where!

  4. Cynthia said,

    January 21, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    I meant Michigan store brands are from Michigan. I noticed that they are labeled that way in the store…Spartan Brand, Meijer Brand…problably not Aldi or Whole Foods brands. I should have been more specific

    There’s not one place to find all the facts…., try the Michigan Bean Commission, Michigan Cherry Commission, the MSU extension. I use them all the time to track down facts for my blogs.

    • Emily said,

      January 21, 2011 at 3:41 pm

      Cool! Thanks. Those “commission” web sites are quite handy.

  5. Lisa Bashert said,

    January 26, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Also, I know not everyone CAN shop at a local food co-op, but if you can, all bulk items like beans are usually labeled so that you can shop locally — and so is all fresh produce. Generally, providing local & sustainable food is part of grocery coops’ mission statement. Hiller’s & Meijer’s are doing a great job of highlighting local items, too, I agree.


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