Finding a local-food Thanksgiving

One way to learn the breadth of local food offering in your stores or nearby farms is to set a personal challenge: every ingredient for your Thanksgiving meal grown or raised as close by as you can, ideally from identifiable farmers.

Thanksgiving may be the best holiday to try this. Liz McMann, community affairs manager at St. Paul's Mississippi Market says going local should not be a problem:

You know when you think about the roots of the holiday, and that it's a celebration of the harvest and family and friends, I think it makes sense to find a way to support your local community and give thanks for those farmers that work year round for us and so often don't get the thanks they deserve for feeding us.

If you live in a big city suburb as I do, you're not going to find too many nearby farmers raising turkeys. Make that no nearby farmers raising turkeys. But you can find Minnesota-raised birds from a number of sources. Two co-ops I checked, Mississippi Market and the Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis sell turkeys from Kadejan family farm in Glenwood that raises chickens as well. The Wedge also sells frozen certified organic turkeys from the Larry Schultz' farm in Owatonna. Both co-ops plan to have enough turkeys to sell through Wednesday, the busiest shopping day.

Though some farms have sold out of turkeys for the holiday season, you might find a few that still have birds to sell. Cannon Falls' Ferndale Market has both fresh and frozen turkeys, though a pre-order for fresh is recommended. Farmer John Peterson says his birds are free range and antibiotic free.

A good list of turkey farmers who sell direct to the public are on the Minnesota Grown website. Minnesota Grown has a long list of other foods to search as well. Paul Hugunin of Minnesota Grown says you can find sources for ingredients like honey, maple syrup, flour, eggs and butter there as well.

If you're not buying direct from the source, buying local can be trickier. Cub Foods carries some local produce, like tomatoes from Bushel Boy in Owatonna, but unless the product carries farm or state of origin, you won't know exactly where it comes from.

Upscale Lunds & Byerly's stores feature signs that say "Eat Local, locally sourced" on produce. Some signs indicate Minnesota Grown specifically. The Byerly's I visited in Roseville had Minnesota grown red potatoes, green cabbage, yellow onions, watercress and fresh herbs. I also saw locally-grown squash and chestnuts. And in one case the story of the farmer, with name and location was displayed alongside the produce: the herbs from Dehn's Garden in Andover.

One of the recurring questions we have as we report Ground Level's local food project is how do you define local? Community affairs managers from both the Wedge and Mississippi Market say it's food produced or distributed from within five Upper Midwest states: Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota. Produce manager Rick Steigerwald at Lunds & Byerly's says his company defines local as food produced within the same region specified by the co-ops.

Is there any Thanksgiving food that's tough to find if you're just looking in Minnesota? Hugunin from Minnesota Grown says cranberries are not normally grown here. But Wisconsin cranberries are fairly easy to find. And if you favor cinnamon and nutmeg in your pumpkin pie, you're not going to find a farmer growing and selling either of those things in the Upper Midwest climate.

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