Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Pursuit of Local Food and The Eastern Market

"If every household in MI started spending just $10 a week of their current grocery budget on locally grown food, we would keep more than $37 million circulating within Michigan's economy each week."

This is a powerful statement that was recently released by the Michigan Department of Agriculture. Especially in today's recent economy where every new day we are confronted with our world's devastating financial crisis. And if you live in MI you are fully aware of how depressed our economy is. You do not have to go far to see a foreclosure sign, or a gas station with the price of fuel hitting over $4 a gallon, or the prices of EVERYTHING at the grocery store being jacked up due to the fuel costs and this is because each food item in an American meal travels an average of 1,500 miles! If you think about all of the fruit and vegetables that you eat and where it comes from you might find yourself asking the sames questions that I did:

  • Does it really taste that good that I am willing to damage the environment for it? NO.

  • If I don't get this in my diet will I somehow be depriving myself of nutrients that I need and can't get from something else? NO.

  • In Michigan, is it possible to eat majority of our produce when it is in season locally and be healthy and satisfied? YES!

The last six years I have devoted any free time in the spring and summer to producing as much food as possible so that I can feed my family healthy, organic produce. I try my best to limit the amount of produce from outside of MI, but that is not always easy. I do buy a couple of items that my children eat faithfully such as avocados, grapes and bananas because raising two vegetarian children under 5 I need numerous healthy options. But, with discipline, I have limited "exotic" vegetables and fruit as a commitment to take care of the environment and our Mother earth.

I have also made it a ritual to go to our local farm markets as much as I possibly can. This not only helps us to be able to eat healthy on a strict budget, but it also supports local farms and our local economy. Anyone who knows me knows my fondness for Detroit's Eastern Market and if you live in a 50 mile radius I strongly urge you to check it out.

Saturday I had the opportunity to go down to Eastern Market by myself which doesn't happen too often. The weather was beautiful; sunny and a little brisk. So much of the time when I go, I have both children and it seems as though I have to rush through the process to get one of them home for a nap or to get the other one to stop yelling about something and threatening a tantrum. But not this time, this time I took the time to really enjoy the experience. This time I was able to take in the fresh air, the smell of fresh cider and popcorn and just watch the hustle and bustle of families, friends and individuals such as myself picking up their produce for the week.

While I am there I always play a little game with myself to see how much I can buy with the amount of money I have to spend. Greg is always laughing at this because almost every week I tally up my list to see how the goods add up. This week was no different. And so I thought I would share my little game with you to hopefully prove the points I have been trying to make. I took $50 for a produce supply for the next 2 weeks and this is what I bought:(HONESTLY)

1 pound of asparagus, 2 huge heads of broccoli, 1 cabbage, 10 orange bell peppers, 3 red bell peppers, 1 pint organic yellow cherry tomatoes, 3 pints of grape tomatoes, 1 head of romaine lettuce, 1 head of red leaf lettuce, 8 limes, 4 lemons, 2 pounds plums, 6 honeycrisp apples, 6 organic beets, 1 dozen of organic eggs, grapes, 1lb. of local honey, 1 large bunch of gladiolas, 1 bunch of dill, 1 bunch of spearmint, 1 pint of organic raspberries and 2 lbs. of dried cranberry beans!!!!!!Everything except the asparagus, limes, lemons, grapes and flowers were from local farms. I think this might have been my best trip yet!

So in a time when we might have to start pinching pennies I urge you wherever you live to buy locally. Support your local farmers, eat healthier food, and in the process become less energy dependent. In SE Michigan, to find local farmers' markets in your area checkout Edible Wow and do a search for Southeast Farmers' Markets. If you live elsewhere, you can find a local farmers' market at the USDA's farmers' market websight.

For more information on these topics here are some of my favorite books:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket by Brian Halweil

Slow Food Nation by Carlo Petrini

1 comment:

inprogress said...

If I would have bought all of that at Produce Palace, I would have spent A LOT MORE than $50. I need to get down to Eastern Market more... thanks for the reminder!