The Local Food Scene (I)

Call it a movement, a subculture, a community, or just the latest big thing—among a growing number of us, it has become very important to be involved in some way with the effort to bring our food home.  I think I’ve always been there in some ways, but the emerging focus on the subject in Ann Arbor drew my attention a couple of years ago and inspired me to explore it enough to write an article about it.  Since then I’ve made a number of personal moves in the direction of sourcing as much of my food locally as I can (in addition to and aside from continually expanding my vegetable garden).  Today was a big one – I bought half a hog from a local farm (Ernst Farm in Freedom Township).  We saved a little money, but we also brought the frozen, packaged meat home from a 5-generation family farm where the dams and sire are outside sniffing at the fresh air, while the layer hens wander around the driveway.  We know where the meat came from and that it was raised without antibiotics, in a natural setting.  And its purchase means that the farm operation earns the money to keep going.

I’ve been impressed with the many separate and distinct efforts to address the issue of a local food system here in Washtenaw County.  They are being combined, if not coordinated, in local food “summits” and there is now a joint website and calendar for events.  Shannon Brines has been a strong influence and his website and blog is a good place to keep up with local and national trends in the sustainable food movement (with occasional diversions to discussion of carbon burdens).  Slow Food Huron Valley has also been active in coordination, together with one of its leaders, Kim Bayer, whose food blog often has excellent recipes paired with seriously researched and collated information about local food producers, environmental aspects of the sustainable food movement, and reasons to go to the Farmers’ Market.  Another source of energy is Emily Springfield, who has chronicled her own efforts to produce food as well as starting a group effort (Preserving Traditions) to learn traditional methods of preparing food.

I’ve only barely scratched the surface with this beginning of an introduction to the subject, and ignored a lot of important contributors and groups.  But you’ll be hearing more.  Meanwhile, if you haven’t already, you might pick up a copy of Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma.  That will give you a good idea of where we are “coming from”.

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