In 2007, the New Oxford American Dictionary chose locavore, a person who seeks out locally produced food, as its word of the year.
As spring turned to summer this year, the Door County 100-mile Food Challenge came to an end for several Door County residents. A year ago these locavores entered into an agreement with themselves and Sustain Door, Inc. that they would increase the incidence and, or duration of sourcing their meals from growers and providers within a 100 mile radius of the borders of Door County. Some participants chose to increase their local eating by one meal a week for the entire year. Some chose to eat exclusively local foods during the months that the farmers markets in Door County were open. The parameters of each individual’s Challenge were self-determined.
Door County 100-mile Food Challenge participants were pleased to find many sources of foods in Door County including our several farm markets, many farm stands, fisheries, fruit orchards, honey and maple syrups producers and local meat producers to name a few. Participants reported that their food tasted better and that they were gratified to know under what conditions and by whom their food was raised.
Now that the year has passed, the Door County 100-mile Food Challenge participants are able to use the information gained during their research of local food sources to continue their intentional eating in a less structured manner. They also have identified some areas of difficulty as regards the availability of local foods and wish to report these to the wider community with the hope that some of the gaps in local food distribution might be closed with local economic development and agricultural initiatives. The gaps and recommendations follow.
Food source gap: Local consumable grains are limited to wheat and corn. Oats, though grown readily in Door County, are not able to be processed here, and thus are unavailable to the consumer. Other grains such as rye, barley, sorghum, and buckwheat are also not readily available.
Recommendations: Support the establishment of one or more grain mills which would include equipment such as a huller, to process a wider variety of grains for human consumption. Encourage growers to cultivate a wider variety of grains.
Food source gap: Cooking oils are unavailable in Door County and the surrounding regions. Fats are limited to those derived from animal sources, such as butter and lard.
Recommendations: Support the establishment of one or more oil pressing plants in Door County. Encourage growers to plant, in addition to soybeans, rapeseed, sunflower, etc. as oil crops.
Food source gap: Local eaters needed to limit the variety of foods that they enjoyed on a conventional diet. Food stuffs that are not grown in this climate at all or that are seasonal, and thus not available year around, are lacking from the locavore’s diet. These include citrus fruit, fresh greens, mushrooms, tomatoes, and many other items.
Recommendations: Support greenhouse agriculture such as is done by some farmers locally (e.g. Amy Stich of Cherrydale Farm), and by other farmers in climates similar or more harsh than our own. (See for example, www.ontariogreenhouse.com). Support specialty food production operations (e.g. mushroom growing, dairy goat husbandry).
Food source gap: Although many local eaters enjoy working in their gardens and kitchens, growing, preserving, and preparing food, they are inconvenienced by the need to spend an atypical amount of time at these activities. In order that the wider population is able to eat locally, attention will need to be paid to convenience of acquisition of foods both whole and processed.
Recommendations: Establish certified processing kitchens, possibly staffed by experienced food preservers, which are available for use by local growers for canning and drying of their harvests. (Excellent examples are the Algoma Farm Market Kitchen and the Oneida Nation Cannery.) Support the establishment of and diversification of local food processing operations including accommodations for artisan cheese making, sausage making, bread baking, pasta production, etc.
Food source gap: Locavores in Door County find few opportunities to eat out. Although the awareness of the locavore market is increasing among restaurant owners and major effort is being made by some restaurants (e.g. Harbor Landing in Egg Harbor, The Cookery in Fish Creek and Perry’s Cherry Diner in Sturgeon Bay), the problem of distribution and acquisition of food stuffs for use in local menu creation continues to impede growth in this area.
Recommendations: Continue and improve the networking efforts already begun between farmers and the owners of restaurants and grocery stores to establish reliable farm-to-table trade. Support development of Community Supported Agriculture operations such as Steep Creek Farm and Door to Door Local Harvest. Encourage membership in and use of online networking resources such as www.greenleafmarket.com.
For more information about the Door County 100-mile Food Challenge and Sustain Door, Inc. please go to www.sustaindoor.org.