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  • Jenny Hill

When the Weather Gets Cold, Local Eaters Get Creative

Do you have a summer and winter diet? Many of us do, at least to a certain extent because it seems more fun to eat melon in the summer and baked potatoes in the winter. Local food advocates (like me), try to eat seasonally–to savor the springtime taste of asparagus and the autumnal return of butternut squash.

Personally, I’ve found there’s an intrinsic satisfaction to staying in tune with the seasons like this. Eating foods like squash baked in the oven signals fall and it’s comforting to have that extra warmth generated by using the oven. Recently, I’ve also learned there are even more benefits to local eating.

But let’s start with un-local eating and shopping. Shopping at a big chain grocery store (or even a big chain store that sells groceries, like Target) may seem cost effective–maybe there is a great price on apples or frozen pizza. But where did those apples come from? How long ago were they picked? How much of their flavor and nutritional benefit was lost along the way? What was the environmental impact of getting them transported to the big chain grocery store.

And who benefits from selling these products? The Guardian newspaper reported in a 2021 study that almost 80% of grocery items purchased regularly were controlled by a handful of companies.

The Best Time to Eat Local Is Now

Eating seasonally and locally has benefits for your health and well-being, as well as the local economy.

As Michael Pollan states in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto “To shop at a farmers’ market or sign up with a CSA is to join a short food chain and that has several implications for your health. Local produce is typically picked ripe and is fresher than supermarket produce, and for those reasons it should be tastier and more nutritious.”

And, as you may have heard, shopping local does stellar things for the local economy. The Finland Food Chain (note: that’s Finland, Minnesota!) states

on their website:

“In short, the more local food production there is, the more jobs and economic opportunity there will be. This will increase local wealth and that will in turn help our other local businesses thrive. Increasing local food production has the potential to help everyone in our community. Because of that, a group of locals began to consider ways we could build a stronger local food system.”

In Pine River, we are fortunate that our local grocery store, part of a small-sized chain, makes it a point to stock produce from local growers. Locally raised meat is available directly from some producers and at our farmers’ market. And there is work being done in our region to make locally produced meat available to consumers in several more ways…stay tuned for more news about that!

In the Driftless Region, the Bluff Country Co-op of Winona features so many local farmers and producers that they have an A to Z list of whose offerings you can purchase!

Other Ways to Be Part of a Local Food Chain

Sprout MN is an amazing local food hub that serves Central Minnesota, connecting local growers and shoppers. They do this through CSA shares (Community Supported Agriculture) and weekly local food orders. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a subscription service where the consumer pays a set amount (or share) up-front and receives regular deliveries of produce and farm products.

In the case of the Winter CSA currently on offer from Sprout MN, the deliveries will be every-other-week from mid-November to mid-February. One great benefit of Sprout’s CSA program is that they work with a group of producers, greatly increasing the variety of what arrives in your share.

Currently, CSA food shares are often expensive–Sprout’s Winter CSA share is $400. However, given the potential benefits, both to health and lifestyle, of cooking and eating good food at home, it may be worth it. You can also have the satisfaction of being part of the local food chain. Supporting the local food chain may mean in turn that others will too, ultimately making local foods more affordable and accessible for everyone.

And check out the Local Harvest website for suggestions on CSAs near Winona.

The Shortest Food Chain of All

Picking things or foraging food for yourself is the shortest food chain of all. If you inquire about it, you might discover a local forager at your Farmer’s Market. Check out Finland Food Chain’s gathering cycle listing, for what you might find and harvest for yourself!

Has reading this blog whetted your appetite for learning more about how we eat? If so, please join a new discussion group, Change Exchange, which meets monthly in both our Pine River and Driftless area. The topic for November is food consumption–please see more information below.

Connect with Local Foods

Sprout MN food hub --Sign up for a CSA share or see details on weekly orders

Pine River Market Square --Indoor Market coming up Nov 12

Cuyuna Farmer’s Market--Indoor Market coming up Dec 10

Winona Farmer’s Market--Last Outdoor Market Oct 29; indoor dates start in November!

Read About What to Eat and Why

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan This is the November book for Change Exchange–see below.

Join the Discussion

Change Exchange is a new monthly discussion group at Happy Dancing Turtle, meeting both in Pine River and the Driftless Region. On November 15, the topic will be Food Consumption. Learn more about it here and remember–you don’t have to read/watch/listen to the resources to join the discussion to share your ideas.


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