Five Reasons to Go Local

Looking around, it seems as if “going local” has become trendy.  Between the t-shirts, all local menus at restaurants, and campaigns to keep what’s on your plate as close as possible, it can all seem a bit like a fad.  Should you even care, or let local go the way of low-fat cheese?  Absolutely not!  Below are ten reasons you should try to make local happen in your kitchen.

Apples courtesy of Kuiper's Farm

Apples courtesy of Kuiper’s Farm

1. Transportation=Food Waste

According to Modern Farmer, 43 billion pounds  of food was thrown away in the U.S. last year.  A portion of this is due to the loss of food during transportation (spoiling in the truck) but is also attributed to the shelf life of a product.  Some produce has a hard time withstanding week long transit periods and looks less than fresh upon arrival, causing consumers to pass right by.  By eating local food, we eliminate the waste generated by long transportation periods and are rewarded with fresher, more flavorful food.

2. Support Local Economy

Farming is a labor of love, and one that certainly doesn’t pay well.  In recent years,it has become increasingly difficult for farmers to compete with big corporations.  Bigger corporations have the money and support to abuse their products, use unsafe preservation practices, and sell their products at a lower price than local farmers can.  Although local products are often more expensive, remember that those dollars you spend at a farmer’s market goes straight back into the farm, whether it be for feed, upkeep, or putting food on the farmers table, not advertising, and packaging.

3. Less GMOs, pesticides, rBGHs

Although this isn’t true with every farmer, many are much more conscious about pesticides and antibiotics, and traditional farmers rarely use Genetically Modified Organisms (or GMOs).  If you are concerned about the growing list of unnatural products being added to foods these days, this is a great chance to talk to a local farmer to see how he treats his animals for diseases or tends to his crops.

4. Environmental factors

Transportation of non-local food also poses a problem to the environment.  Many foods travel over 1,000 to show up at your supermarket.  Can you imagine the carbon footprint of an avocado in the middle of a Michigan winter?  It’s easy to reach for the foods we love when shopping without thinking of how unnatural they are to our climate, but next time, stop and think about where that tomato was grown.

5. Eat Real Food

Did you know that some tomatoes are not perfectly round red bundles of joy?  Some are lopsided and purple-but taste even more amazing than the grocery store variety.  By buying local food you are opening up your eyes (and mouths) to the great bounty that local land has to offer.  That food at the farmers market is about as close as you can get to digging it up yourself, so expect delicious flavors to lie ahead.

Grange Kitchen & Bar / Ann Arbor, MI

Michael and I in Ann Arbor

Michael and I in Ann Arbor

When deciding on a day trip to Ann Arbor, I believe the respectable thing to do is to eat at Zingerman’s Deli.  I mean, why not?  It’s delicious, has a store chock full of goodies, and is the place to go in Southeast Michigan.  However, this post is not about Zingerman’s.  It is about what happens when you venture out of your pastrami and pickle comfort zone and into the streets of Ann Arbor.

We discovered Grange Kitchen & Bar as we walked down a side street, off of the main drag.  Our stomachs quickly deciding for us that any food is better than no food, we opened the door that led us down an long, narrow hallway.  We were quickly seated at a booth by our friendly host and began to take a look around.  The decor was unassuming, just a few large prints of vegetables on cream colored walls.  The only other decoration was a wall-sized chalkboard that listed out the days specials, as well as where the vegetables had come from.  Because it was brunch, their special for the day was a chocolate chip fritter, for a mere $2.

The menu included some of the usual offerings, but the pairings were less than normal.  The fried egg sandwich came with chile mayo, the seasonal vegetable hash with wax beans, and the buttermilk pancakes were lemon.  Each thing sounded a little better than the next.  Starting with coffee and the charcuterie board, we settled in for some lavish tastings.

Our appetizer arrived quickly, and plated beautifully on a white plate with small glass jars holding duck pate and pickled vegetables.  Beets, carrots, and green beans mingled together in their vinegar soft shells and tasted of a bountiful harvest.  Michael commented that the pickled pig’s heart was delightful, a word not many would use to describe such an organ.  Satisfied with our first tastes, and our velvety coffee, we awaited our entrees.

My mozzarella, basil, and red pepper omelette came out a bright yellow, a sure sign that the eggs came from well kept chickens.  Biting into the brunch, it was almost like it was screaming, “SUMMER! This is what summer tastes like!”, because, really, it did.  The peppers and basil were fresh, and the mozzarella blended perfectly, not runny at all.  The potatoes were also another strong point.  Not cooked too much, and with a strong flavor, they complimented my fresh omelette nicely.

Michael was in heaven with his order of the duck confit poutine over two fried eggs.  The French fries, crispy, danced with the duck confit, not giving the breakfast too much of a duck flavor.  “That was just about the best poutine I have eaten,” were some of the only words I could get out of him in between bites.

Ready for more, we noticed ice cream was on the blackboard.  Flavors like popcorn, mint, and lemon balm enticed us to try a few flavors, which all arrived in small glass jars.  Each one a creamy blend of the ice cream and its mix in, we were floored.  The chocolate Dragon’s Milk, made with the New Holland brew by the same name.  Not overpoweringly alcoholic (or chocolate for that matter) I could see it pairing well with a hot summer day.  The sage, the more savory of all flavors, left us dreaming of what we could do with all the sage on our front porch.  Fresh and distinct, it was a wonderful way to use extra harvest.  But finally, the lavender and lemon one was to die for.  I could have easily bought an entire gallon of it and chowed down on my journey home.  So light and fresh, but never overly sweet, it was like the flavors were meant to be together.  After talking to our lovely waiter, he informed us that the ice cream was made in house by their pastry chef-and that she sells pints at Ann Arbor’s Farmers Market every Wednesday.  If you want to check her out, which I suggest you do, click here for her Facebook link.

I have to say, I couldn’t be happier with our decision to venture from the norm.  An excellent meal, friendly service, and a dessert that will keep us coming back more than we should, sure made our day.  To top it all off, we were able to support Michigan farmers while filling our bellies!