Katie Johnson: Local food evolution not just a trendPublished 10:00pm Tuesday, August 10, 2010
At one time, “buying local” was a trend, a phrase only hippies, hipsters and foodies could relate to. Before that, it was all there was — we produced our own crops and livestock.
The cycle seems to be coming full-circle, although not back to the same ways of our ancestors. Although we don’t all raise our own chickens and cattle and sow our own fields, we seek local producers who do.
One story today takes a look at Lehman’s Orchards, a Niles family-owned business since 1929 that is now making its mark in the wine industry with accolades in its first competition for hard cider.
Our second story is an update on the Niles Community Gardens, which started this year after a group of citizens wanted to share their interest in local food with the public by engaging people in the local food movement. For a small fee, residents can help maintain the garden and reap the benefits with fresh vegetables.
Unfortunately, the gardens have fallen victim to some theft, but the project is only in its first year and the problem will likely be remedied in some way.
The community gardens are a good example of people moving beyond stopping by a roadside stand or checking labels at the supermarket and getting their hands dirty to produce their own food.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released its 2010 National Farmers Market Directory, and Michigan ranks fourth in the nation for the most operational farmers’ markets. There are 271 operational farmers’ markets in Michigan listed in the directory.
More than 90 percent of Michigan farmland is owned by families. According to the 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture, there has been significant growth in the number of small farms over the past few years.
Buying local means you are supporting a local economy. When you buy an apple from Michigan, you are supporting a Michigan grower. You also know it didn’t travel across the country from a massive producer via truck.
When you think about buying local food, you are also thinking more about your health and what you are putting on your plate — a trend that is good for the economy and you.
Katie Johnson is the managing editor of the Niles Daily Star, Off the Water, Cassopolis Vigilant and Edwardsburg Argus. She can be reached at (269) 687-7713 or at katie.johnson@ leaderpub.com.