Sunday, January 18, 2009

Finding Local Food in the Winter

Our outdoor Farmer’s Markets closed down at the end of October around here, but that didn't mean the end of being able to find local produce, dairy and meat. Because we live in the far western suburbs of Chicago and are perched between high density suburbs and farmland, it only takes a couple of minutes for us to get out into the country filled with its many farms that grow or raise food. This proximity to farmland works to our benefit, especially when it comes to being able to buy our food year round directly from its source.

Yesterday morning, my husband and I headed over to Heritage Prairie Market to pick up some milk and honey. Heritage Prairie, located on a beautiful farm, just minutes from our house, is a unique market in that many of its offerings come from local farmers in Illinois and Wisconsin. Very little is trucked across the country to come to the store which saves on fossil fuels and also provides us with fresher products.

On this winter day, grass fed beef was available along with chicken, eggs, cheese, milk, butter and many cold weather crops including beets, spinach and winter squash. Additional offerings included locally made muffins, pumpkin butter, and other treats. The honey produced at the farm comes from the hives of honey bees I have seen foraging for nectar in my own backyard. Pretty cool!

With our milk and honey purchased, we headed over to the Inglenook Pantry to check out the Green Market’s Winter Farmer’s Market and pick up some meat from a local farmer. Inglenook Pantry is a restaurant that serves organic and local food and houses the Green Market on Saturday mornings in the winter. Here it is possible to pick up locally grown vegetables, herbs, apples, mushrooms, cheese, milk, and meat during a time of year when it is usually impossible to obtain local food. At the market, we talked to Mark of Farm Direct Black Angus, the farmer who raises our meat. We have been buying from him for several years now and it is nice to have a relationship with the person growing our food. We also ran into Beth of Erehwon Farm who runs a local CSA but was offering up freshly baked breads and vegetables on this winter day.

If you are interested in finding out what local sources of food may be near you, check out the website Local Harvest. This national site lists where one can find CSA’s, farmer’s markets, family farms, and organic food in many parts of the country. It was through this site that I discovered what local foods were available to me and hopefully you will find a source of local winter food as well.

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