I decided to write a short response to some of the reader comments about eating local foods by way of root vegetables in warming soups last week. The blog focused on fresh, cold-storage vegetables that can be sourced right now, in the dead of winter.
Here’s the deal: I’m not against eating locally hunted meats, fowl and fish. I think that it is a healthy practice to be aware of where all of our food comes from, no matter if it is sourced from the animal or plant world.
We are fortunate to live in a state with an abundance of farm lands, natural spaces, lakes, rivers and streams from which to hunt, fish or gather foods to feed our families. Besides hunting and fishing, the most local you can get is having a vegetable garden or fruit trees right in your own backyard. Many, however, choose not to hunt, fish or garden, or lack the access to such activities and opt instead to source food from restaurants, grocery stores, farm markets, or from the farms themselves. In that case, it can be either challenging or an adventure trying to find good sources of local foods. I thought it would be interesting to see just how many local producers or local-focused restaurants I could list right from our own region off the top of my head. Although there are many more wonderful farms and food producers out there than I could list, I am focusing on just a handful of whole foods suppliers.
I’ll start with a group of small organic farmers, growers or CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture farms) who are selling their fresh produce in stores year-round:
Dehn’s Garden (herbs) Andover, MN
Driftless Organics (potatoes) Soldier’s Grove, WI
Gardens of Egan (vegetables) Farmington, MN
Harmony Valley (vegetables) Viroqua, WI
LaBore Farms (hydroponic lettuces) Faribault, MN
Rock Spring (herbs, vegetables) Decorah, IA
Next, dairy - a small sample of producers of milk and milk products including cheeses, ice creams: and yogurts:
Castle Rock Dairy Osseo, WI
Cedar Summit Farm New Prague, MN
Crystal Ball Farms Osceola, WI
Cultural Revolution Kalona, IA
Pastureland Cooperative Goodhue, MN (the most wonderful butter)
Shepherd’s Way Carver County, MN (sheep's milk products)
A short list of local meat producers:
Beelers (pork) Le Mars, IA
Kadejan (poultry) Glenwood, MN
Larry Schultz (eggs, poultry) Owatonna, MN
Schlangen Family Farms (eggs, poultry) Freeport, MN
Thousand Hills Cattle Company (beef) Cannon Falls, MN
A couple of frozen local foods and a local honey:
Ames Farm Honey Watertown, MN
Sno-Pac (frozen vegetables) Caledonia, MN
Sonny’s Ice Cream Minneapolis, MN
Local restaurants I love that have a dedicated commitment to locally-sourced, organic ingredients:
The Creamery (Downsville, Wisconsin)
Local grocers who have a serious focus to local and organic foods:
Really, the list could go on and on - but for a snapshot, that’s a pretty big list of small-scale local suppliers right around here providing wonderful ingredients to help put delicious meals on our tables.
Local means something different to everyone - some might stop at their backyard, and some consider 100 miles or even a region - but definitely transported without jet fuel to count as local. No matter the boundary that is drawn, it means that someone is taking the time to provide foods that are more than an industry. To these growers, farmers, chefs and stores, this is a way of life. It’s happening on the ground, in our neighborhoods, out in a field or pasture, in a barn: it’s certainly not new, and it’s definitely not lucrative, but it is a commitment that I am proud to recognize as happening in my own (regional) backyard.