Become a label sleuth to detect locally-produced foods

This time of year there are just not as many farmers markets open offering fresh local foods. Becoming a label sleuth can help you find those items grown, made and processed locally.

Many local foods purchased from farmers markets can last through the winter months. Last summer, I purchased quantities of strawberries, blueberries, peaches, corn and meats from local farmers markets. These went into my freezer for enjoying through the winter months. I also purchased pre-made pies, jams, honey and cookie dough from similar local sources. The pies and cookie dough were frozen and the jams, honey and maple syrup are stored on my pantry shelves. If you live near a city where there are local specialty markets such as: bakeries, meat markets and other specialty stores you can often find locally-sourced items. Unless you are completely self-sustainable, you will ultimately have to visit your local grocery for certain items.

A surprising number of locally sourced foods are at grocery stores too. Some products at the top of the Michigan local foods list are potatoes, onions, various root vegetables, apples, milk and eggs. Additionally, there are several pickle brands, tortillas, a variety of chips, salsas and the like, jams and jellies, not to mention beers and wines. Finding locally-made or locally-grown food does not necessarily have to be limited to “artisan” items. Despite the fact that there may be a global corporate name on a product, many products are well known to be from Michigan or grown in Michigan. These companies create local jobs and support the local economy and provide carbonated beverages, water, beer and wine, juices, breads, chips, cereals and more.

I like the idea of going to the farmers market and participating in the sights, smells, sounds and bustling activity of commerce on a small scale. There is something satisfying in being able to select produce and talking directly to the farmer who grew it. But in the winter months, those occasions can be few and far between in Michigan. So I resort to my second favorite pastime, sleuthing the label to detect locally-grown, made, packaged or processed food and other goods. I realize that I am not finding it awfully hard to find local Michigan products even in the dead of winter.

For more information about community food systems and food hubs contact Michigan State University Extension Community Food System educators who are working across Michigan to provide community food systems educational programming and assistance. You can contact an educator through MSU Extension’s Find an Expert search tool and selecting the topic “community food systems.”

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