Every Thanksgiving there is only one thing on my mind, what are we going to eat? Who is all coming? Where is everyone going to sit? Do I have enough dishes? When will I find the time to clean the house? How long do I need to cook the turkey? How many times will I hear, "Your house is cold!"? Okay, make that many things, but alas, my main concern is, what are we going to eat? The menu is always given great consideration. I spend days looking for recipes, organizing a menu, making a grocery list, shopping for ingredients, preparing the meal, cleaning up after the meal. A lot of thought, planning, and preparation. With so much going on who has time to stop and think where the food they eat is coming from? I know a few short years ago the thought never crossed my mind. The past two, sure I thought about it, briefly. This year, I focused on it.
Food is increasingly moving up the ranks on my laundry list of environmental and health concerns. Every time I hear of another recall, learn about CAFOs, or read an ingredient list I just want to start growing my own. Since I have yet to master gardening, shopping the Farmers' Market and choosing organic is the best I can do. Add shopping local to that list.
I set out to my local Food Co-op with my lengthy list of ingredients in hand.
dry Riesling - 103 miles
garlic - 37 miles
white mushrooms - 12 miles
apples - 30 miles
cranberries - 48 miles
1 orange - 2,000 miles (California)
carrots - 37 miles
parsnips - 32 miles
celery - 2,000 miles (California)
onion - 37 miles
turnips - 37 miles
butter - 40 miles
porcini mushrooms - 12 miles
slab bacon - 315 miles
sweet Italian sausage - 23 miles
bread - 14 miles
half & half - 40 miles
green beans - 5 miles
french fried onions - ???
sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil - very, very far away
cream cheese - 40 miles
turkey - 40 miles
Thyme, parsley, and chives came from 5 steps outside my kitchen door.
It was surprisingly easier than I thought. Due largely to the fact that my Co-op stocks many products from local sources and labels their origin. It did take some extra time to stop and actually read the labels rather then throw it in the cart and go. I also had to ask a few times when something was not labelled. Luckily my Co-op also stocks a knowledgeable staff that was able to answer all my questions. I normally split my grocery shopping between the Co-op and the supermarket; taking advantage of the Co-op bulk section and the supermarket prices. I do not think I would have had the same outcome at the supermarket. Often the labels only list the headquarter address or where the product is distributed from, but not where it was actually grown.
In the Summer buying local is easy, I just shop at the Farmers' Market and purchase directly from the farmer who grew it. What does someone with no access to a Farmers' Market do? Have you ever tried contacting a company to inquire of their sources? I have. Once I called Swanson to ask where the meat used to make their broths came from. Short version - they were unable to answer my question. I want affordable food, from a source I know, sustainably produced. Everything seems to take me back to know your farmer or grow your own. Maybe next year I will grow my Thanksgiving dinner. Until then...
Do you know your farmer? Be thankful if you do.