Monday, December 13, 2010

Local Eating

The snow is deep this morning, the roads are slippery, and everything is frozen. Thinking about local produce seems very wishful. However, I've just read a study about greenbelt farming in our local area, which treats a question I often ask myself: if a large number of people wanted to eat local food, would there be enough for them to all make that choice? I am thinking about how the statistics in the article affect my own decisions.

Here are some statistics about the state of Michigan, excerpted from this article:
  • Agriculture is the number 2 industry in Michigan.
  • 56,000 farm parcels cover over 10 million acres of Michigan farmland.
  • In diversity of commercial agriculture, Michigan ranks second to California.

So in terms of eating produce from Michigan, quantity isn't really a problem. In terms of my own experience, one challenge is knowing which products are actually from the state. Dairy products, corn, beans, and fruit are at the top of Michigan farm sales, but Michigan corn, wheat, and soybeans are commodity crops, sold on the national and international market. Some of the corn goes into Ethanol, but I hope that folly will soon be corrected. As a result, we may see manufactured food items that contain Michigan content but have been made non-local by commoditization.

Even in winter, though, I often see Michigan potatoes and apples in the markets. Michigan cherries -- a big crop for the state -- are mainly canned or dried and shipped around. And I always thought that Kellogg's cereals were local: but the last time I purchased Special K the small print (which I read at breakfast) said "Made in Mexico"!!

What about still more local products, from here in Washtenaw County and its immediate neighbors? Of course there's always Jiffy Mix, made right down the road in Chelsea (too bad I don't bake much). Corn, wheat, and soybeans are the largest crops in the immediate area, but local farmers also grow hay, livestock (for meat or dairy), vegetables, fruit, popcorn, and maple syrup. Much is for sale at the farmers' market, which I often write about. The total number of farm operators in the county is 1,984 -- this sounds like a large number, but includes proprietors of all-sized farms.

The progress of the Greenbelt initiative is creating a protective situation for the farms nearest to us, and I am encouraged to know about the way this initiative is working to keep farmland from being made into tracts of houses.

1 comment:

Jeanie said...

I never knew Jiffy mix was made in Chelsea -- learn something new every day. But Made in Mexico??? Special K?

As always I've learned something new from you. And though I've not commented on them, have read the posts of your travels with great interest, also enjoying the colorful photos. Welcome home.