Sunday, June 1, 2008

Our Summer Locavore Challenge

The New Pioneer Co-op, our local natural foods grocery, has issued a challenge to its members, to eat mostly local during one week in August. Always one for taking these things too far, I thought it might be fun to do this in a bigger way. Ben and I discussed our options--eating within a certain mile-radius, eating food produced in Iowa, etc., and decided on the following terms:

1. The challenge will go from the first day of summer to the last day of summer.

2. We will only buy groceries made in Iowa during the challenge period. Food left over from before the challenge is fine to use, however. Waste not, want not.

3. When eating out (which we do a lot), we will only eat at local, independently owned restaurants. No chains. However, although we will lean towards those that use local food, we won't worry about asking the source of everything they make.

4. Food prepared by local businesses at the farmer's market or the co-op, that may or may not use local ingredients, is fine. For example, I can buy a loaf of bread made by a farmer's market vendor, without grilling them about the source of their flour.

5. We will not give up coffee (we're not THAT radical), but we will only buy coffee that is roasted locally.

This challenge will help us not only to eat less processed food, fresher food, and more seasonal food, but also will reduce our "carbon footprint" and keep our dollars in the state of Iowa during these economically challenging times.

Yesterday, I did a little reconnaissance at the Co-op, and discovered that even there, a lot of food isn't local. Helpfully, they label all food that is local. But I couldn't find a source of Iowa goat milk, tofu, or flour. I know these must exist, so I may need to get them directly from the producers. I did find Iowa chevre, milk, eggs, and lots of produce. It's going to be a real challenge, especially for the kids.

At the Farmer's Market yesterday, however, I found some gems--a local mushroom farmer, a local source for lamb (the lamb roast we had last night from her was fantastic), and a local coffee roaster.

Today, we headed up to Cedar Rapids to check out prices on drum sets because Angus, our 12 year old, is "graduating" from grade school in four days and we are helping him buy a new drum set. His is old and cheap and he's ready for something better. While there, we stopped by Cedar Ridge winery because the word is, they make not only wine but vodka and rum. Locally! (Because Ben is not going the whole summer without a vodka martini.) We tasted everything and the Clearheart liquors were amazing. The gin was spectacular, the vodka is sourced from 100% Iowa ingredients, the rum was rich and delicious. The limoncella and lamponcella were absolutely out of this world. Needless to say, we stocked up!

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