Relocalizing the Food System

I love writing stories about food and farming. The people I meet are so passionate about their work. Almost everyone I interview is invested in reforming the broken food system. Bonus: They give me tasty things to eat.

Here’s a rundown of the treats I’ve sampled just in the past few weeks.

  • Cissy, a woman who’s long been the vanguard of Indiana’s organic movement, gave me some intensely flavorful pickles she made from cucumbers raised in her kitchen garden. I washed it down a glass of homemade kombucha that couldn’t be beat.
  • Jim, a farmer in Owen County, sent me home with a bunch of carrots he pulled from the wet earth like a late winter miracle.
  • Anna, a farmer in Rush County, gave me a huge jar of rolled wheat that her cooperative had grown and milled. (I used some in banana bread I baked for my weekly writing date—my writer buddies pronounced it wonderful.)
Checking out a display of LocalFolks Foods at Moore Corner Store while on assignment

Checking out a display of LocalFolks Foods at Moore Corner Store while on assignment

And a couple weeks ago, at Moore Corner Store, proprietor Jasen Moore offered me a taste of ketchup made by Indiana’s own LocalFolks Foods.

I’m no ketchup connoisseur, and in fact we never purchase it. But if I were a fan of this most American of condiments, I would never buy a national brand again. LocalFolks’ is sweetened with sugar, not the genetically modified scariness that comprises high-fructose corn syrup.

I happened to be in the natural food store when Hoosier Microgreens’ Alex Sulanke came along to introduce his product. So I got to munch uber-fresh sprouts of radish, cabbage, kale, arugula, and mustard from “the smallest farm in Indiana” (120 square feet).

Moore Corner Store is in the business of connecting small farmers and food entrepreneurs to the consumer. Though its hours are limited at present, this shop and others like it fill a critical role in relocalizing our food system.

For Jasen and his wife Sara, Moore Corner Store is more than just a business. It’s a mission. Jasen told me the enterprise arose out of concern for the state of our economy. Big box stores have fragmented communities and hurt the little guy.

Moore2“But a store like this…supports the local economy, minimizes carbon footprint, puts actual nutritious food on your plate, and it’s close to home.” The Moores live just up the street from the shop, though both must spend time elsewhere to make ends meet.

I just saw a documentary called Down to Earth in which the iconoclastic farmer Joel Salatin (made famous in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma) made an important point: Your purchase of a farmer’s product might be the thing that keeps that farm afloat another week.

Is it worth changing our habits to spend a little more of our money at a farmers’ market or a shop like the Moores’? I would say yes. What about you? Have you connected with a small farmer, producer, or locally owned shop lately?

Check out my piece on Moore Corner Store here.

A Week in the Life, Irvington-style

Last week, I realized how much I rely on my neighborhood for commerce, entertainment, exercise, and other essentials. To wit:

Tuesday morning I took part in the Writing Habit, a weekly mini-retreat for writers put on by Urban Plot in the library of a local church. With two other writers tapping away on their keyboards, I cranked out some verbiage.

Kitley finds writing more taxing than stalking sparrows. Sometimes I agree.

Kitley finds writing more taxing than stalking sparrows. Sometimes I agree.

In the evening I walked two blocks to Dairy Queen (OK, it’s not locally owned, but a business in our own little plaza). My neighbor had called a meeting, sweetening the deal with ice cream. We were there to explore teaming the Irvington Green Initiative and a budding arts initiative with local organizations like Trade School Indy to share admin/event/classroom space sometime in the future. An intriguing possibility.

Wednesday, before sunup, I went to earlybird piyo (Pilates/yoga fusion) at Irvington Wellness Center, my favorite place for yoga and other such pursuits. In the afternoon, I biked over to meet a writer friend at Starbucks (because our old haunt, Lazy Daze Coffeehouse, tragically closed this summer).

I walked from there to Help My Mac Plus, where I found a refurbished MacBook Air with my name on it. A stunning development, given how terminally conflicted I am about gadgets and the resources they require. I had just begun to put out feelers for a lightweight laptop for my upcoming research trip/ writers’ residency. I’m thrilled with my find, awarding myself double bonus points for supporting a local business and avoiding buying new.

Thursday evening it was back to Irvington Wellness for yoga class, taught by another Irvingtonian (I inquired after her hens, as one does here).

Friday evening was the highlight. First we went out to eat with a friend at local eatery Legend, where the owners know us by name and the food is delicious. Then to see Delta Duo and friends perform at Bookmamas in the Underground 9.

JJ plays a resonator slide guitar in the style used by Delta bluesmen of the 1930s. Irina's violin accompaniment is haunting.

JJ plays a resonator slide guitar in the style used by Delta bluesmen of the 1930s. Irina’s violin accompaniment is haunting. Photo courtesy of the Delta Duo.

Two local singer/songwriters kicked it off, after which the headliners laid it down. Delta Duo pairs JJ the Chicago-born bluesman with Irina the classically trained Russian violinist for a sound like none other. Suffice to say this monthly show will be a priority from now on. (Bonus: no cover charge.)

But the weekend wasn’t over yet. Saturday after supper, Judy and I rode our bikes to our new neighborhood ice cream shop Wyliepalooza, then popped in on old friends to catch up.

And Sunday was the farmers market. Judy and I biked over, bought bread and produce, and ran into several friends, including the aforementioned JJ and Irina.

This is the third mention of ice cream in this post. Confession: I actually can't eat ice cream! Wish I could!

This is the third mention of ice cream in this post. Confession: I actually can’t eat ice cream. Wish I could!

In short, it was a great week to be an Irvingtonian. What’s new in your neighborhood?