I can buy locally grown and milled wheat, locally grown and processed canola oil. I can buy mustard milled at a mustard mill in Eastport, Maine. There are farmer's markets all over the state. I even find one in my small town of 1300 on Saturday mornings during the growing season. We are the first state to start a CSA for seafood. We have a strong Organic Grower's Association here which supports not only large scale organic producers but small growers as well.
There is a strong local foods culture here.
It is in the building of that culture where Maine has been successful in reaching that 40% number. But in order to increase the number beyond the 40% I think it will take a lot more. I can see where organized cooking classes that help folks learn more about cooking in season would be very helpful. Classes in food preservation would be helpful too. We have many good organizations in this state that are working to make the connection between our local farmers and our plates.
But the source of the inspiration for this post comes from a conversation I had the other night.
First the back story, I have had a busy few days here and I left the house unprepared for Evan's late morning munchies. I needed to find him a snack. I stopped in a small convenience store that was along the way to my destination. The challenge when I walk into a store like this is to find the least offensive-to-good-nutrition sort of food. Oh sure lots of chips and soda but can you find an apple? Not likely. I really wasn't thinking I would find it here. As I entered the store there was a big display of candy right at the 4 year old level. We walked past a vast display of bright orange chips and doodles. The coolers were packed full of many sugary drinks in an array of colors not found in nature. BUT in the back there was a cooler with milk produced not 5 miles from the door of the store. Milk, whole and organic. Pretty cool eh? I was able to find EVan some milk and some popcorn with a minimum of additives.
So the next night our only working car decided to take to its bed. Mark and I spent a good part of our afternoon figuring out how we were going to get home. A good friend helped us out. But while we tried to get it all together we decided to have dinner at a new restaurant in town. We had heard that the restaurant was going to try to use many local ingredients. We both found a good beer and a good burger. While finishing our meal we met the owner who, come to find out, is the owner of that little convenience store I had been in the day before. I asked about the milk.
He told me that he is selling the milk for 4.29 a gallon. If I were to buy it at the farm it is 5.00 a gallon. He acknowledged that he is not making much money on the milk. But he is selling enough volume for it to be worth his while. He also expressed that he thought it was important for him to sell the milk from this farm.
Now that is pretty cool!
But this seems to be where a move in the local foods culture of Maine needs to go in order increase that number of 40%. I know of many great local health food stores that sell local produce,milk, meat and value added products. Whole wallet...er Whole Foods touts its support for local agriculture. But it is when we find local products in the places where we least expect it that I think we will move the idea of locavorism beyond those more specialized markets that folks who seek out local foods shop. In other words, local grown and produced foods will really be an ingrained part of our local food culture, even if you find it next to cheese doodles:)