— Stacy Besonen, Crow River Food Council Member. Feature image: The Little Boon Farm, Maple Lake, by Mary Sue Stevens.

Did you know, most Americans don’t know where their food comes from – let alone who grew it or how it was grown? Our connection to food has diminished to nothing more than a quick transaction at the check-out line, with no thought to who is behind the kale in our salads or the chicken on our grills. As a society, we know we are nature deprived. Not enough Vitamin D from the sun, not enough contact with the ground to literally ground us, not enough fresh air to breath deep! This is where Farms and Farmers Markets can play a role in reconnecting!

Farms and Farmers Markets reconnect communities to their food system. They create an opportunity where farmers can simultaneously sell fresh, local food and serve as food educators, revitalizing the way consumers shop and eat. They are places where farmers and neighbors meet to socialize and exchange ideas around cooking, nutrition, and agriculture. What produce is in season? What’s a healthy way to prepare asparagus? How do you raise your chicken? These answers can be found at a farm or farmers market – answers that educate, inform, and build relationships between communities, farmers, and food.

Farms and Farmers Markets reconnect a sense of community among their customers. Not only do patrons shop for farm fresh food, but they also engage in conversation, meet neighbors for lunch, and enjoy the festive atmosphere with family and friends. Research indicates people thrive and are naturally happier when socially connected. Farms and Farmers Markets support emotional health by creating a cheerful space where people come together for laughter, fellowship, food, and fun.

Farms and Farmers Markets reconnect us to healthy lifestyles and diets. Many local area Farmers Markets have the Power of Produce program (POP), where kids receive a $2 weekly token to purchase food themselves. Parents report that their kids, who participate in the program, eat more veggies! Farmers Markets in low-income areas also report increased consumption of vegetables among people within walking distance. To find a Farmers Market close to you, visit: https://minnesotagrown.com/.

baby-potatoes-farm-farming-775707Amelia from Sweet Beet Farm says, “People who visit our farm get to experience the process of small scale organic vegetable production systems. They get to observe the diversity of perennials and annual plants, pollinators, all working together.” Sweet Beet Farm, as well as other local farms, have several events inviting the public to come together to spend time eating, planting or working on big projects. If you want your kids to experience farm life, call a farmer and give your availability and the farmer can put together a work project for your family to get your hands in the dirt! For more information on events at Sweet Beet Farm check out their website at www.sweetbeetfarm.com.

Many local farms welcome visitors at most hours of the day, however, it a good idea to call and set up an appointment before your first visit. To find a farm close to you, visit: https://minnesotagrown.com/.

Farms and Farmers Markets bring people together and improve the health of the community!

— Connie Carlson, Executive Director

Growers need markets for their products.
Chefs and Buyers are eager to buy locally.
Consumers want to eat local food.

Yet, in the Crow River Region, there are only a small number of places where you can order something locally grown off a menu or put it in your shopping cart.

The Crow River Food Council, in partnership with Wright County Extension, has been working to change that and make it easier for farmers to find markets, buyers to find farmers and consumers to enjoy it all.

Local farmers getting a tour of the Buffalo Community Middle School, the event was scheduled by CRFC board member, Sue Spike and included new Food Service Director, Penny Hoops.

Local farmers getting a tour of the Buffalo Community Middle School, the event was scheduled by CRFC board member, Sue Spike and included new Food Service Director, Penny Hoops.

In 2016, Connie Carlson, Executive Director of the Crow River Food Council, and Rod Greder, Wright County Extension Education, submitted and were awarded a grant through the MN Food Charter to bring together producers and buyers. Prior to submitting the grant, Connie and Rod had attempted to host a “Speed Dating” event for local growers and buyers. This event was advertised as an opportunity for attendees to participate in short meet-and-greet sessions to share information about their farms and businesses and spark new market relationships. Unfortunately, Rod and Connie quickly discovered that it was very challenging to get busy farmers and very busy business owners in the same place at the same time.

So, Rod and Connie went back to the drawing board to think through how to bring these two groups together in a way that worked for everyone. They determined their two biggest challenges to getting producers and buyers together were:

  1. Overcoming Mythology: Rod and Connie discovered through conversations and interviews that many small businesses don’t know or believe they can buy produce from local farmers. Licensing and regulations appear to be daunting and confusing and many small business, though interested in buying locally, don’t have the time or energy to figure it all out.
  2. Time is Money: For both growers and buyers, it is challenging to find the time in the day to attend workshops and events. For farmers, this is particularly true during the summer months. Restaurant owners and culinary professionals are equally busy and often have limited to no additional staff to allow them to take time away.

Rod and Connie devised a new plan with these two points in mind. The first part of the plan would be to host a workshop for growers and buyers interested in getting educated on buying local food. Although this didn’t tackle problem of workshops taking up time, the subject matter must’ve struck a cord because the event was very well-attended by growers and businesses.

Producers and businesses attending the Institutional Buying Event, listening to a panel of local food buyers, including the Buffalo Community Middle School.

Producers and businesses attending the Institutional Buying Event, listening to a panel of local food buyers, including the Buffalo Community Middle School.

The second part of the plan was to work with small businesses to arrange a time when they could open their doors to invite producers to visit with them, learn about their business, share information on what they are growing and start developing connections. This was the plan awarded funding by the MN Food Charter grant.

The Institutional Buying Workshop was hosted in May 2017 with approximately 40 producers and small businesses in attendance. Shortly thereafter, businesses such as Irish Blessings (Maple Lake), Rosewood (Rockford) and Harvest Moon Co-op (Long Lake) hosted events. Rod and Connie quickly discovered that summer was definitely NOT the time to host these events if they wanted producers to attend. So, they held off scheduling additional events until the winter months. Events held early in 2018 at The Abundant Kitchen (Buffalo), Buffalo Community Middle School and Baker Wilderness Reserve (Maple Plain) were well attended by farmers who were not busy in their fields.

The events were an hour and a half to stay efficient and respectful of everyone’s time. Each event included time for the business owner to give a tour of their business and talk about what they are doing. Growers were encouraged to bring samples and information on their farms, including contact information, product lists and pricing.

Iron Shoe micro greens at Harvest Moon Co-op.

Iron Shoe micro greens at Harvest Moon Co-op.

The results from these events have been slowly popping up here and there. Harvest Moon Co-op has been the most proactive, seeking garlic, potatoes and micro-greens from various producers who have connected since the event.

The Crow River Food Council is very interested in continuing to facilitate and host future events and are always interested in talking to businesses that want to meet and work with regional farmers. The grant money paid for lunches at the events, provided by the business (which was intended to be another perk–farmers got to try the food!). However, some of the events were hosted in the late afternoon and did not include a lunch, making the events very affordable.

Future work in this area will include hosting additional events, sponsoring produce handling workshops and finalizing a local directory of producers that will be housed on the Crow River Food Council website.

Have a suggestion for a business we should connect with? Know of a business doing great local food work? Send us a note. We’d love to hear from you!

— Katie Hansen, Food Council Member

Market Managers meet to connect and share.

Market Managers meet to connect and share.

Who’s ready for Farmers Market Season?! The Crow River Food Council recently hosted a pre-market meeting to connect with the Farmers Markets in the Crow River area. We had a great turnout and were able to connect with several markets! This gave them a chance to share ideas and tips for a successful market this season.

The Food Council will occasionally have booths set up at the markets, too, so be sure to stop by and introduce yourself if you see us out there! We would love to hear from you and your ideas to improve the community’s access to locally produced foods. For a printable list of farmers markets in the Crow River region, click here.

We’re also excited to announce a raffle at the Howard Lake Farmers Market this year. View the flyer here. They have a new location and new time – it will be Thursdays from 3-6 this year at Lion’s Park in Howard Lake. Each time you shop at the market you are eligible to enter a raffle to win a free basket of locally produced goodies! And they aren’t just doing one drawing, you have three chances to win, once each month! And the more times you shop the more times you can enter, happy shopping!

Additionally, the Power of Produce (PoP) Club continues to grow and expand throughout our region. PoP is a farmers market incentive program designed to empower children to make healthful food choices. Each week, kids age 4-12 receive a $2 token to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables and food plants. Find PoP at the following markets this summer:
WC PoP 2018 Social Media

Stay up to date on all things PoP, and where we’re visiting this summer by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.

Is a CSA Right For Me?

— Connie Carlson, Executive Director, and Jeff Aldrich, Food Council Member. Feature image by Mary Sue Stevens.

(Not sure what a CSA is? Read our article here.)

Solar Fresh Produce

Solar Fresh Produce

Thinking about joining a CSA but not sure if it’s right for you? Here are three important things to consider:

  1. Lifestyle
    In survey after survey, one of the most common reasons why a customer either doesn’t continue his CSA or didn’t enjoy the experience is because he was unable to use all of the food. Full shares often have enough produce to feed a family of four. Even ½ shares can have more fresh food than you may have experience and time to use. Few of us enjoy throwing out food, especially when we know how hard our farmers work to produce it. Ask yourself: Do I have time to cook or preserve fresh food every week? Are there others with whom I can share what we are unable to use? Friends, extended family members, or a local food shelf?
  2. The Little Boon Farm

    The Little Boon Farm

    Convenience
    Unless your CSA is delivered to your door every week*, you will need to carve time from your schedule every week (or every other week) to either pick your box up from your farmer on her farm, or meet-up at the drop-off location. When looking for the right CSA for you and your lifestyle, take into account how willing you are to add this effort to your schedule. For some, the pick-up time is a perk and they enjoy visiting the farm, running into friends, chatting in the late evening hours. For others, it can feel like an extra-to-do on an already full list. And, noone is happy when they completely forget to pick up their share! Ask yourself: Am I willing/able to add a new obligation to my weekly (or bi-weekly) schedule? Is there someone who would be able to pick up my share if I am unable to make it?
    * Some CSAs do offer home delivery and generally the delivery fee ranges around $3/week. If you are interested in this and your farmer doesn’t list it as an option, consider asking her. Perhaps something can be arranged!

  3. Mana Gardens

    Mana Gardens

    Cost
    How much do you spend on fresh produce every week? How much are you willing to pay? An average CSA subscription is around 18 weeks and runs about $600 for a season. This is about $35/week for somewhere around 8-12 different varieties of fruits and vegetables, depending on the farm and the time of year. In basic economic terms, some may see this as a bargain, especially when considering how fresh the produce is and the quality of the food. But, different people have different measurements of what they value. Some buyers subscribe to a CSA because they want to support their local farmer, who may actually be a close friend or family member. Others value the fresh, nutritious food. Others love to cook.A CSA subscription is NOT a grocery shopping experience. You are investing in local food production and the direct return to you may not be immediately apparent. Ask yourself: How valuable is this experience to me?

    Mana Gardens

    Mana Gardens

    If you are concerned that you won’t “get your money’s worth,” consider the following:
    – 
    Start Small:
    A typical ½ share runs 9 weeks (often every other week) and is enough to feed a 2 adults. (And, remember: the food is fresher so it lasts longer!) Consider investing in a ½ share and seeing how that goes for you. (Farmers often have extras, ask to purchase more if you really enjoy it!)
    – Share the Experience: Find a friend to share a subscription. This is a great way to test it out and share the ups and downs. Splitting a full share is typically slightly less expensive than purchasing a half share. Splitting things like cabbages or melons at the pick up site, however, can present challenges.
    – Do Your Homework: Your CSA farmer is a wealth of information on the food and often cooks, prepares, stores and preserves her produce. Most CSA farms have a newsletter (ask for a copy before you sign up and you’ll know exactly what to expect!) and they are often packed with recipes and tips for storage.

Do you have additional tips or ideas to share about making a CSA work for you? We’d love to hear from you!  Share your ideas in the comments or find us on Facebook to continue the conversation.


Visit the CSA producers in our region to learn more:


SPECIAL EVENT:  The Abundant Kitchen in Buffalo will be hosting a CSA Fair on February 24th. This is a great way to meet local CSA producers and ask questions. More details: https://www.facebook.com/events/216259272250290

2017: Meeting our Mission

— Connie Carlson, Executive Director

Over four years ago, the mission of the Crow River Food Council was developed by a group of engaged local community members who wanted to find ways to work together to “promote healthy eating that maximizes the use of local, regional, and seasonal food produced with sustainable practices and creates prosperous communities in our region.”

As I sit back and think about the work we accomplished in 2017, I see very clearly how we continued to live up to that mission. Here is a snapshot of the great work the Crow River Food Council accomplished in 2017!

    1. Expert speakers informed market leaders at our Farmer's Market Workshop

      Expert speakers informed market leaders at our Farmer’s Market Workshop

      Farmers Market Leadership and Networking: The CRFC wrote and received a small grant to fund the development of a Crow River area Farmer’s Market networking group. The first event was held in April, 2017 and brought together leadership from 10 different area farmer’s markets! The CRFC shared information about the PoP program, SNAP/EBT and other opportunities for markets to serve the people in our region. Leaders from the markets also shared their best practices and brainstormed ways to tackle their challenges. The response to this event was so positive that it was decided to host another in the fall after the market season. The CRFC was also able to give away two small scholarships for markets who needed additional funding to start programming.

    2. PoP gives kids purchasing power at Farmer's Markets

      PoP gives kids purchasing power at Farmer’s Markets

      PoP Continues to Explode! The very popular PoP program continued to expand across our region. Maple Lake, Monticello, Albertville and Annandale all hosted PoP programs in 2017. In 2018, Rockford is already planning on starting a program with Delano and Buffalo getting pieces into place.

    3. Slow Cooker Classes: The CRFC partnered with Grace Place in Montrose to launch a new cooking series called Montrose Cooks! Funding was provided through an Allina grant. Originally slated to be one series of 6 classes, the series is now in its third cycle and is connecting with community members of all ages. Grace Place is working on expanding the classes and we hope to see it replicated in more communities in our region. You can read more about this program here.

      Participants work together to recreate the class dish.

      Montrose Cooks! participants work together to recreate the class dish

    4. Making Connections: Connie Carlson and Rod Greder of the CRFC also got funding to host events for farmers and businesses in our region to connect and develop relationships, with the hope that more of our area businesses will purchase from our farmers. Events in 2017 were hosted at Irish Blessings (Maple Lake), Rosewood (Rockford) and Harvest Moon Co-op (Long Lake). In 2018, events are scheduled for The Abundant Kitchen (Buffalo), The Buffalo School District, and Baker-Near-Wilderness Park. In addition, a program is in development to connect headstart programs with CSA farmers. Stay tuned for more great details as this work continues.
    5. Setting the Table: Late in 2017, the CRFC partnered with various regional organizations to host a Farm-to-Table Dinner. Sponsors included The Sustainable Farming Association: Crow River Chapter, Allina Health – Buffalo Hospital FoundationBuffalo Community OrchestraHayes’ Public House, IntegriPrintRandy’s SanitationBuffalo Books and Coffee, and an Anonymous Donor. The dinner was organized by a close team of CRFC board members and community partners and featured produce harvested from farms around our region, including Riverbend Farm, Living Song Farm, Mana Gardens, Sweet Beet Farm and TC Farm. It was a beautiful evening filled with great food and great conversation.

Whew! What an exciting year! Keep watching our Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates on our work and ways for you to get involved. We already have plans in place for great programming in 2018 and we hope you’ll roll up your sleeves and join us.

Why Farm to Fork?

— Stacy Besonen, Crow River Food Council Member, et al.

Crow River Food Council’s focus is working on programming and policy changes to make the healthy choice the easy choice for everyone. This is the work you will support through our Farm to Fork gala. As a community, we have a large need around food insecurity and food accessibility. When we learned that a large number of households did not even have a stove or a working stove in their homes, we knew we had to do something!

The well-being of our residents is vital to the long-term sustainability and prosperity of communities. Regions thrive when residents can be active and healthy. In an effort to combat food insecurity (a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life) and food access in our region, we’re proud to be a part of programs such as:

Power of Produce Kid’s Club: Several local farmer’s markets have implemented the PoP program. Kids are able to sign up at the beginning of the summer at their local farmer’s market and each week they receive a free $2 token to use to purchase their own produce. This program is extremely successful in getting kids to eat vegetables, because research shows that if kids pick it they’ll eat it!

Council member Andrew Doherty works with participants to preapre their meal.

Council member Andrew Doherty works with participants to prepare a meal.

Montrose Cooks! is a program that was developed out of the Crow River Food Council. When a recent study concluded that several households in Wright County do not have working stoves, the council came up with an idea to help. With a generous donation from Allina Health through the Neighborhood Health Connection Grant, the council supported Grace Place in Montrose to create the Montrose Cooks! Program. 15 families signed up for the first six week series. On the first night each family received a free crockpot, a recipe, cooking class on how to make the recipe in the crockpot, a sample meal to enjoy, and finally, a grocery bag full of groceries to be able to go home and remake the recipe on another night! Five additional classes with recipes, money saving tips, sample meals and grocery bags followed. The program was so successful that three more class series are planned; that will be 60 households who will be able to feed their family.

Farmers’ Market Workshops: The council recognized that one of the few ways our region can currently access the food grown in our community is through Farmers’ Markets. They are also one of the easiest ways for farmers to sell their produce. It was decided that CRFC can play an important role in building and supporting our area Farmer’s Markets and one of the first ways to do that would be to meet and connect with our area Farmer’s Market leaders. We wrote and received a MN Food Charter grant to support this work. Our first activity was hosting a Mini-Conference for area Farmers Market leaders on April 22. This event was intended to share resources and information on various programs for Farmer’s Markets and also help the area markets meet and learn from each other. On-going work will include round-table discussions, newsletters, grantwriting and idea-sharing.

Jerry Ford of Living Song Farm and others meet with Harvest Moon Co-op.

Jerry Ford, Living Song Farm, and others meet with Harvest Moon Co-op.

Connecting producers/farmers with institutional buyers: If you enter a local restaurant, odds are that the food traveled for weeks from another state or country to get to your table! We’re working to connect producers/farmers with institutions so local restaurants (schools, daycares and others) purchase foods that are right in their back yards! This helps our local economy, the produce retains it’s nutritional value and improves health for consumers, and zero travel expenses means more affordable food for everyone.

More than an evening gathered with family and friends to celebrate local food in Downtown Buffalo, our Farm to Fork event is all about supporting food access and affordability in our region. Your attendance allows us to continue working to support our local farmers and producers, encouraging kids to eat new fruits and vegetables, creating access for everyone to the food grown in our region and much more. Help us fill our neighbors forks!

Sponsorship opportunities are also available.

— Stacy Besonen, Crow River Food Council Member

Event. Determine if an event is possible, whether assisting an established event or hosting our own. That was one of the goals we set for ourselves in 2017. We’re now excited to host Farm to Fork: A Lakeside Gala in Celebration of Local Food on Saturday, September 16 from 5:30-8:30 pm in Downtown Buffalo. But this, of course, did not just happen overnight. Months of research, planning and connecting have gone into an event not to be missed.

Gathering together, social connection and having a conversation around food insecurity and accessibility is the main focus of this meal. In our region, we have amazing farmers and produce; most of this produce is sold to high end restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The executive chefs there know the quality of the produce. The Crow River Region of Farmers are known as the ‘Napa Valley’ of the Twin Cities. Both the Crow River Food Council and the Sustainable Farming Association Crow River Chapter are working hard to connect consumers, you and I, with producers and local farmers!

With so much goodness available locally in our region, it may be hard to imagine not being able to take advantage of the food grown here, or any food at all for that matter. But, food insecurity and accessibility are real issues our neighbors face. As defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity is a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. This is often, though not always, limited by income, lack of resources and/or the ability to reach available resources. To combat these issues we’re working on programming and policy changes to make the healthy choice the easy choice for everyone, and that’s what this event will benefit.

SFA_CRiverC_CMYK-01But we can’t do it alone; we’ve partnered with Sustainable Farming Association Crow River Chapter. Encompassing an incredibly diverse part of the state that includes the Twin Cities and the rural counties to their west, SFA Crow River Chapter offers opportunities for farmers, sustainable farming supporters and consumers to participate in a vital and active organization. They represent not only the more “traditional” farmers – dairy, grains, etc. – but also a wide range of thriving specialty and niche market farmers: CSAs, goats, sheep, poultry, herbs, garlic, restaurant and co-op produce, etc. They have an emphasis on education in sustainable practices and an impressive roster of events, including farm tours, the Annual Crow River Chapter Annual Meeting, the Minnesota Garlic Festival, and the popular “farm social” gatherings.

We’ve also partnered with farmers, businesses and people who all call this region home, because connecting locally is our passion! We all have a twinkle in our heart for Buffalo and our region. Read about Farm to Fork Chef Mary Jane Miller and the farmers, businesses and others we’re working with here.

How will the proceeds benefit the Food Council and specific programs?
See our “Why Farm to Fork” post to learn about the programs your Farm to Fork support will benefit. In the meantime, save your seat at the table by purchasing tickets. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. You can find Farm to Fork updates on our Facebook page.

— Connie Carlson, Executive Director

In past blog posts, I’ve given you an overview of what the Crow River Food Council aims to do in our community and how we hope to do it. As a council comprised of community leaders and experts in food access, health, food production and education, we are uniquely positioned to impact our community in lasting and beneficial ways. Many of the people who sit on our council take the information, resources and connections they gain through our meetings and projects back to their place of business or organization and continue the ripple effect throughout their work.

Late last year, the Crow River Food Council embarked on a strategic review and goal-setting session for 2017. As a council, we reviewed the work and research we did in 2016 and applied that knowledge to the areas and communities we thought had the most need. From that work, we outlined 3 goals we hoped to accomplish by the end of 2017:

  1. Formalize a Farmer’s Market Working Group that provides support, communication, funding and opportunities for our regional farmer’s markets.

    Farmer’s Market Working Group: Andrew, Ellie and Jeff.

    The council recognizes that one of the few ways our region can currently access the food grown in our community is through Farmer’s Markets. They are also one of the easiest ways for farmers to sell their produce. It was decided that CRFC can play an important role in building and supporting our area Farmer’s Markets and one of the first ways to do that would be to meet and connect with our area Farmer’s Market leaders. We wrote and received a MN Food Charter grant to support this work. Our first activity was hosting a Mini-Conference for area Farmers Market leaders on April 22.  This event was intended to share resources and information on various programs for Farmer’s Markets and also help the area markets meet and learn from each other. On-going work will include round-table discussions, newsletters, grantwriting and idea-sharing.

  2. Host a Community-wide Local Food Event to build awareness for the food grown in our community.
    We are pleased to be part of a community-wide effort to host a local food event this Fall that celebrates the bounty of our region and highlights the people who grow our good food. We can’t go into much detail at this time, but suffice to stay, some exciting ideas are in the works. Watch our social media and newsletter for more details as they become available and ways to get involved.
  3. Improve our online mapping and directory to continue to be a local food resource for our region.
    If you tour our website, you’ll see a growing list of resources for local food, farmers and opportunities. We are always working on this resource and encourage you to send us information and updates if you spot something that could use some improvement. Send us a note if you want to be included or know of someone who should be on our list.

As of this writing, I’m pleased to tell you that the Crow River Food Council has exceed our goals already for this year, which is pretty impressive for a small, mostly volunteer run organization. Our next board meeting is scheduled for mid-May and during that meeting we will be reviewing our 2017 and charting out how we want the rest of the year to develop.

We always are seeking community input, suggestions and resources. Feel free to connect with us to share your food system ideas!

— Gina Coburn, Crow River Food Council Member

Why participate in the 10 Day Eat Local Food Challenge? What’s the point of eating local food? Gina explores the answers to these questions in part two of this post.

So is the 10 Day Eat Local Food Challenge worth it? I found it was a fun, eye opening, life enhancing experience for me. This October will mark the third year I’ve participated in the food challenge and each time, because of the 10 days of focus, I learn a bit more, become a little more aware and my appreciation for the food I eat, the people that produce it, the state of the world around me, deepens.

Photo by Mary Sue Stevens.

Photo by Mary Sue Stevens

We are rich here in Minnesota! We have wild rice, nuts, garlic, cherries, grains, maple syrup, herbs, wild medicinal plants, delicious mushrooms and apples along with every vegetable imaginable and plenty of meat! And we have restaurants, lots of them and more all the time that are making a point of using local food. We have breweries, wineries and even distilleries. So lucky are we. And we have products being made here and more all the time.

This summer, my friend Mary Reynolds and I visited The Food Building in Minneapolis where our friend Mike Philips has Red Table Meats, “salumi made from Minnesota pastured pigs”. We discovered a cheese maker shop in the same building: The Lone Grazer, “cheese from Minnesota grass fed cows and Baker’s Field Flour and Bread “stone-milled flour & naturally leavened bread” I heard just opened. These weren’t here two years ago, but they are now and their products are served right next door at The Draft Horse.

sfa_ketchupAnd as time goes on there’s more to find right in our own Crow River Region. Our local Crow River Chapter of the Sustainable Farmers Association experimented with making their own ketchup from extra tomatoes, onions and garlic grown by our farmer neighbors. It didn’t pan out yet, but everyone learned a lot about the economics of our food system. Holly at the Rosewood Eatery in Rockford is working with the Crow River Food Council to source locally and we’re working with her to see how to help other restaurants. The list goes on.

These are the places that I’ve run across in my daily rounds and of course there are many more. Visit our directory on this website, let us know if there are places we’re missing and tell us about your favorites to add to the list.

And join me in 10 Day Eat Local Food Challenge in October. Locally sourced food in an area 100 miles in any direction from where you live plus 10 exotics you don’t want to live without. Let us know how it’s going on our Facebook page.

— Gina Coburn, Crow River Food Council Member

What is the 10 Day Eat Local Food Challenge and how does one even begin? Gina details her introduction to the challenge in part one of this post.

90% of our food comes from the industrial food supply and surely none of us is starving to death. So what is the point of eating local food? Well, here are a few reasons Vicki cited in her introduction audio on the Local Food Challenge website and they are borne out in my experience:

Sarah Lindblom of Solar Fresh Produce. Photo by Mary Sue Stevens.

Sarah Lindblom of Solar Fresh Produce, Buffalo. Photo by Mary Sue Stevens.

  1. Health and personal vitality: Knowing the source of our food, knowing the farmers that raised it, the land that produced it, contributes to our mind and body’s health.
  2. Sustainability: As in our responsibility to leave the earth in at least as good a shape as we found it for the people (our children and grandchildren) that come after us.
  3. Community: Sharing food has always been a social activity, it connects us. And in a larger sense, eating local food contributes to our local economy by supporting the farmers and land where we live.
  4. Sovereignty: As citizens, it is wise to have control over the land, water, soil and seeds that we depend on for our lives.

And maybe one of the best reasons of all is:

  1. Potency vs. resignation: Engaging in an activity that in some way tackles one of our BIG issues, connects us to our world in a tangible way. It might be a small step but it’s a step that if taken by many, would have a large effect on our planet.

So what are the road blocks? Why don’t we get more than 10% of our food from local sources?

Photo by Mary Sue Stevens.

Photo by Mary Sue Stevens.

  1. Time: Much of the food we consider locally sourced is whole food and needs some time to prepare or preserve.
  2. Talent: Not everyone knows what to do when faced with a whole chicken or a beet to make it taste good.
  3. Treasure: True or not, it is perceived that eating locally sourced food costs more.
  4. Pariah factor: It is getting easier but it’s more difficult to eat local food…going out to restaurants and invitations from friends might be tricky if you’re challenging yourself to eat only local.
  5. Food is more than just food: We have food habits, emotional attachments and definite likes and dislikes when it comes to food.

By the way, Vicki’s audio is 45 minutes long and inspiring if you want to hear more about the above.

So is the 10 Day Local Food Challenge worth it? I found it was … find Gina’s final thoughts on her experience as she finished the challenge, with additional sources of local food she discovered, in part three