January is considered by many people to be a month for setting goals and resolutions to guide the year to follow. For many it may be losing weight, saving money or drinking more water, for Deanna Mitchell of Cary it was buying local. Deanna resolved buying and eating locally produced vegetables and meat for at least 75 percent of her family of three’s meals on a food budget of $100 per week. Her blog yearofhealthierliving.wordpress.com chronicles her adventure as she visited local farmers and markets.
“This region has an astonishing variety of locally produced food and cool people who produce it,” Mitchell said. “Eating fresh, local meat, dairy and produce is achievable on a budget, especially with canning, freezing and drying.”
Mitchell’s blog includes her local food purchases and menus as well as several recipes. Her weekly meal planning may mean purchases from a couple of different farms, a farmers market, the grocery store or delivery from Produce Box, which is a home-delivery service for fresh, locally grown produce and products.
“More and more consumers are looking for local food options in their communities and at their grocery stores,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We see this trend continuing and the department is working to ensure that buying local is as easy as possible for consumers.
“People wanting to buy local should start asking questions,” Troxler said. “Ask where your food comes from, ask produce managers where they source their produce. Look at food labels and see where they are manufactured. Look for the Got to Be NC logo and visit gottobenc.com for more information on finding farms, farmers markets and roadside stands.”
Eating local could be a great goal for 2014, and a great way to support local farmers and businesses. The NCDA&CS has a few more tips:
• Go to the grocery store and look for locally grown. When it comes to the grocery stores, each chain defines “local” in a different way. The NCDA&CS works closely with produce buyers, meat buyers and others to source products locally.
• Visit one of the four regional farmers markets operated by the department or one of the many local farmers markets and roadside stands across the state. A list of markets can be found online at www.ncfarmfresh.com.
• Eat out local. Look for restaurants that use locally grown products or showcase local foods on their menu. Each year special competitions and food events highlight chefs that take “eat local” to heart, including the popular Competition Dining Series that is sponsored by Got to Be NC.
• Sign up for a service such as Produce Box. The company started in 2008 and has grown 30 to 40 percent each year. “Right now we work with about 40 farmers to deliver fresh produce to the front doors of customers in the Triangle, Triad and Wilmington areas,” said Courtney Tellefsen, Produce Box founder. “We are looking for more farmers now, we have more need than our current farmers can supply.” Other businesses that provide this service include Papa Spud’s, Britt Farms and High Country CSA. For a complete list of farms, visit www.ncfarmfresh.com.
With the resources available to consumers, buying and eating local is achievable at any budget. Even those who may not have the time to visit a few farms or markets each week can look for local at their local grocery store. Mitchell’s blog is a good place to start to see a success story in incorporating local foods into your everyday routine.
Although Mitchell didn’t quite meet her challenge, she only achieved 67 percent local, she benefited from unexpected advantages like lowered cholesterol, 15-pound weight loss and she felt good about supporting local farmers. Her journey to support sustainable, organic and locally sourced and ethically produced food continues at her new blog: http://solefoodkitchen.com.