Eat Local Challenge 2011 Winners
My love for food was aroused when I learned to cook Indian food in an Indian home. With such an inspiring launching point I became fascinated not only with blending powerful flavors, but also with the culture and community that surrounds food. For me, eating locally is important because of the community that I have found among food producers and fellow food lovers in our community. Having face-to-face contact with the people who have worked to grow my food makes me feel good. I get a glimpse of the working conditions I’m supporting and see that I’ve avoided foods that come with a carbon footprint from the miles they’ve traveled and pesticides they’ve required. Eating locally pushes me to collaborate with others in our community. I’ve called upon my elders and other, experienced members of the community who have taught me canning and freezing skills as well as recipes that utilize local ingredients.
This is my fifth year practicing the eat local challenge so I have come to classify September as almost a month-long holiday. September is the month when I ride around town with a spare sweet potato in my backpack at all times in case I find myself in isolation from local food options but hungry with access to a microwave. It is the month when I have a sixth sense for apple trees and I always have a plastic bag in tow in case I find myself passing by the community garden in need of a few veggies. My kitchen might as well be the only room in my house because there are just too many fresh foods at the farmers market not to be constantly preparing new dishes and preserving for the winter. A friend of mine inspired me with her home made crackers earlier this year and they have been one of my favorite new local tricks. By simply blending three types of Whole Grain Milling Company’s flour out of Welcome, MN with butter, honey, water, and herbs of my choice and baking them on a cookie sheet, I’ve savored them as appetizers or snacks this year. In past years I’ve avoided lettuce for lack of a local salad dressing solution. This year, after posing my dilemma to the food gurus at Just Local Foods, I was presented with a solution– sunflower oil mixed with raspberries and honey. The sunflower oil is from Pulaski, WI which does reach 25 miles over my 150 mile food radius, but I’ve learned that sometimes rules need to be stretched in order to bring more local produce into my diet. The month of September is a month when I plan my days and weeks around food– I am intentional with my meals, a practice we so often have the luxury of discarding.
Early in September, a bunch of friends and I shared a local meal. One of the dishes was a wild rice soup with dried morel mushrooms, shredded carrot and zucchini, and a buttery onion, pepper, and garlic base. The other dish had potato dumplings in a thick tomato base. One of my friends had traded honey she had collected for the morel mushrooms and wild rice that another man had harvested. Shredding zucchini and carrot for a soup broth has since been a technique I’ve used a lot. The dumplings that we shared were made of mushed potatoes, flour, egg, chives, oregano, and basil, much of which came from a garden I worked in this summer. I’ve found ways to incorporate the delicious dumpling recipe into a few more meals this month too. That early-September meal was symbolic of what I find valuable about the eat local challenge– sharing knowledge about harvesting and cooking, sharing food with friends, and knowing the origins of the food.
— Briana Odegard
On Jan 1st 2011 I made a news years resolution. The same one everybody makes– to eat healthier and live a more healthful lifestyle. It’s September 2011 and I’m proud to admit that I have kept my resolution, my promise to myself. A huge part of my resolve was to eat the most nutritious food possible, this begins with food grown in my own backyard, or the backyards of my neighbors. My backyard garden and the farmers market have been a huge reason why I was able to keep my resolution, why I’m now a healthier person in mind, body, and spirit. When you eat well, you feel well. Without local food my journey would have definitely been more difficult, and perhaps less productive. I’m thankful every day to live in the community I do, one that offers such wonderful food choices.
— Sharon Scheel (80lbs lighter)
Story 3: Soylent Versus Savory Greens
It’s funny, but ever since I can remember I’ve loved to eat food. There’s just something brilliantly fundamental to this most intimate act of putting food inside your body. In a world that’s filling to the brim with packaged soup, gas station burgers, and jarred cheese, it’s no wonder why anyone would want to give their diet a complete overhaul.
The majority of grocery store products aren’t even considered food by the strictest sense of the word. After eating the processed inventions that are able to pass as food these days, soylent green sounds like a treat.
And so it was this unfortunate and rather grotesque twist that the American diet has taken in the last several decades that ultimately led my sister and me to challenge ourselves this summer to not set foot inside a grocery store.
When I mention this challenge to people their eyes tend to bulge, many laugh in my face, and—on occasion—milk comes spurting out their nostrils.
But really, what it’s come down to in our household is that we only want food with verified origins. For us, sources of such foods are the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market, Just Local Food, and the garden in our own front yard.
As the harvest season approaches—the great reward of nature—I can’t help but to look back and recount the benefits of our summer challenge. The Farmers Market has been a considerable help in our summer dietary endeavor. When you want your food farm fresh this is the way to go. My favorite thing about the Farmers Market is that it’s outdoors. You purchase one food item at a time and no part of the excursion—besides the mass of goers—feels like grocery shopping.
And even though the aisles do get crowded with other green eaters, it still doesn’t feel like grocery shopping because everyone is happy to be there. It doesn’t seem like a chore that they’re doing; it’s something they enjoy. It’s nice to be out with your community to celebrate this amazing, edible nature.
From the wide assortment of newly-picked, verdant greens—and not the soylent kind—to Gingerbread Jersey’s tongue-stinging, farm fresh Screaming Hot Cheese—the best kind of cheese ever—the market has got pretty much everything you need to make it through to the next week.
While it’s great to utilize the Farmers Market in the summer—not to mention the monthly winter markets—Just Local Food is a great year-round option for green eating.
It may be small, but it’s loaded to the brim with fresh produce and pretty much everything you can get at a grocery store.
They have a great selection of bulk food dispensers, various organic snacks, and—my personal favorite—the assortment of fair trade coffee. But the food isn’t the only great thing there; the people who work there go above and beyond to educate their customers and make sure they leave happy. Though you can’t always find the most specific food item you may be looking for, there’s always some suggestion they can propose.
They even offer recipes that correlate with what they have in stock. If they were any more helpful they’d be coming to your house and cooking your meals for you.
Which brings us down to the garden.
Unfortunately, as amateurs, our garden feels like more work than payoff.
But really, when you want fresh food you can’t beat the just-picked, garden-fresh, independently grown food
The greatest thing about your own garden is that the only requirements are sunlight, soil, water, and love. And by love I mean the sweaty labor of digging up the sod, installing a perimeter fence, weeding and thinning—all in eighty degree, scorching hot, humid weather.
But seriously, sometimes it’s really nice to put in the necessary work for a garden. After all, the input equals the output; and when you reap the benefits of your work—or, dare I say, “the fruits of your labor”—it’s pretty much nature’s way of thanking you.
It’s very cool to see things comwe full circle that way.
The greatest reward of having your own garden—or eating organically altogether—is the reminder it brings that you are an animal on this planet, participating in the natural world.
When you allow yourself to fall into nature and let it catch you, support you, sustain you, there’s no greater high.
Of course, in today’s society it’s hard not to be tempted to go the easier, and sadly, cheaper route by ordering off the dollar menu at McDonald’s or buying a bag of potato chips at the gas station.
My sister and I still make trips to the grocery store when money is tight or we’ll order a pizza when we’re feeling lazy, but we’re making small steps toward a healthier, greener diet. It’s a beautiful thing.
Lately we’ve been expanding our sources to other stores around town with an emphasis on healthy and local food like Hahn’s Market and Mother Nature’s Food.
While the steps we’re taking may be small ones, I much prefer them to stuffing myself with Gardetto’s, Doritos, and other soylent snacks—besides, I hear they’re made out of people.
— John Sieglaff