Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thinking About Local Food

Yes, things have been a little quiet here at Diggin' In. The market is closed for renovations, so we haven't had much to report (although the renovations are progressing nicely; can't wait to show you the end results!).

That doesn't mean we're not thinking about food -- good, healthy, delicious, local food. (Some of us are always thinking about that, really.)

In yesterday's L. A. Times, food writer Russ Parsons ponders the national discussion about food and farming -- why tensions sometimes run high between conventional and organic farmers and what we really should be talking about in common. It's a superb article, worth your time to click through on the link and read it, and it's something that really resonates here at Local Roots.

Local food, especially as you find it at farmers' markets and at Local Roots, tends to be produced by small-scale family farmers, many of whom use organic practices or at least ecologically sound, sustainable methods. It ties into the traditional image most of us have of Old MacDonald's Farm, with a variety of animals and plants in a harmonious ecosystem.

The reality, especially in a place like Wayne County, Ohio, is that "local food" also includes local farmers and local agriculture -- even when those farmers grow and harvest commodity crops (such as corn, soy, or wheat) or raise large herds of animals on large acreage. This form of local agriculture does play a significant role in our local economy as well as our local culture.

Where Parsons brings these two images and realities of agriculture together is in pointing out the shared goals: farmers are in business and thus have making money as a goal. Farmers on both sides of the equation produce food (as well as feed for the animals that become food for us). So we're all in this together, as long as we're part of the American food system.

But maybe that's not good enough. If you saw "Food, Inc." with us back in November, you know there are some critical problems with the American food system, many of which are making farming of any kind more difficult. So what can we do to change the system to support local farmers and get great local foods to market? How can we keep more of the money from those crops in the farmers' hands -- and in our communities?

Over at Grist, writer Steph Larsen emphasizes the need for community in the food system -- and in relocalizing more of the different businesses involved in bringing food from farm to table: butchers, meat lockers, grain mills, bakeries, drivers, as well as markets like Local Roots and community members like you.

Again, we're fortunate here in Wayne County to have some of those. Our meat producers can go to a couple of different meat processing facilities in the area. One of our producers grows grain and has the equipment to mill some of his spelt into flour. Several producers provide the market with baked goods.

Is it enough? What more can we do in this area to make better connections for local farmers and local shoppers? Local Roots has taken the first step, but we know there's still more work to be done in building a resilient local food system that serves many people.

We're starting a year-long discussion at Local Roots as a way to encourage people to make more local food choices. Join us the fourth Saturday of every month at 1 PM (during market hours) to discuss what we can all do to "Eat At Home." If you are just starting to put an emphasis on eating locally, come and learn from others how you can make it easier. If you have ideas and tips to share for growing, preserving, and eating local food, please share! If you want to talk about what more we can do as a community to support local food, be there.

Make this the year you really "Eat At Home."

Eat At Home discussion begins Saturday, January 23, 1 PM, at Local Roots -- during our Midwinter Open House

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