This past weekend, my hometown held its first-ever, local-food Harvest Festival. All the food and drink was grown, raised or created within about 250 miles of our town, with most of it from within a 30-mile radius. Guess what? The festival sold out of food within the first 90 minutes. Local food is hot.
In restaurants and in home kitchens, more and more people are turning toward locally produced food because it is fresher, has less impact on the environment and is good for local economies. It seems that many people, given the choice, would rather spend their dollars locally and help small farmers in their communities. Eating local—and involving kids in the process—is also a great way to connect kids with their food and promote healthy eating.
Over the summer, my daughter and I paid a visit to Nature’s Choice Farm in Grant Park, Illinois, about an hour from downtown Chicago. We’ve been buying our meat and eggs from Nature’s Choice Farm for about a year now. The pasture-raised (grass-fed) beef, pork, chicken and turkey is not only delicious, and healthful, it is locally and sustainably raised on a small farm within a short drive from our home. The meat is also processed within the state of Illinois. We normally pick up our meat and eggs at the farmer’s market or at a local delivery site, and we’ve had the chance to meet the farmers, Eric and Samantha Sexton, on many occasions. But visiting the farm in person gave us an even greater appreciation for the work they do and the quality of the food they produce.
On our farm visit, we rode behind the tractor for a tour, indulged in a pig roast, and gathered our own eggs from the hen house. For city and suburban kids, who may have never seen an egg outside of a grocery store, the chance to pick up an egg still warm from the chicken’s (ahem) bottom was truly an “a-ha” moment! For me, it was gratifying to see the pigs, cattle and chickens out in the open, free to roam and graze, in a peaceful, pastoral setting. The contrast to large “factory farms” was pleasantly apparent. Yes, this is a small operation. Even with a dedicated customer base, Nature’s Choice raises a herd of fewer than 40 cattle in any given season.
Small but Mighty
Even as Eric and Sam work to grow their business to support themselves full-time, it seems to me that they are doing something rather profound. They are doing the hard work of raising animals not because local food is trendy. They’re doing it because they believe pasture-raised meat is better for people and better for the earth. They are providing nourishment in their community. They are feeding (and employing) people. They’re giving their local community some food independence and food choice by providing a high-quality alternative to the big food-store chains. By opening their farm to the public, they are teaching people what “food” once meant and what it can be again. They’re showing kids “eggzactly” where eggs come from! I’m proud to be a small part of that process. Bonus: I’m eating extremely well. Have I mentioned the bacon and eggs are to die for?
Eat Local! Here’s Some Help
- If you’d like a bit more inspiration to eat local, check out this TED talk video, “Why Local Food Is Saving the World.”
- Visit Local Harvest to find CSA meat or produce near you.
- Check out my “Five Ways to Connect Kids With Their Food” post here.
- Remember that your backyard (or windowsill) can be a great source of local food. It’s never too late to plant some seeds, or too early to begin planning next year’s garden.
Do you try to eat local? How has it worked for your family? Have any tips, resources to share, or comments? I’m all ears!