By Charlotte Graham
What exactly does local food mean for us here in Knox County, surrounded by Amish farms and an hour away from the nearest Whole Foods? For me, the main benefits of buying and eating food that’s grown or produced locally are simple: I can get food that’s fresher, and I get to spend my money in my own community.
In our society, the biggest challenge for people who want to buy more local food is that there’s no longer much infrastructure for that kind of grocery-shopping in our national, industrialized food system. It is becoming increasingly hard for small-scale producers to find places to sell their food and for consumers to buy it. There are eight proper grocery stores in Knox County that serve our population of over 60,000. To meet that demand, stores like Kroger and Walmart need to source much larger quantities of food than most farmers in our area can supply. That food generally comes from far away, meaning that the produce is harvested long before it’s ripe, which lengthens its shelf life but really decreases its nutrients. As a result, small producers here in central Ohio have to get creative about getting their food onto people’s tables.
Luckily for us at Kenyon, there are still places to buy local food in our area without too much trouble. The first place to check out is the Village Market, where you can buy local milk from Smith’s or Hartzler’s, local Minerva butter, eggs from the Helts, meat from the Rickards, sourdough bread from former Assistant Professor of Drama Andrew Reinert, other good stuff. Mount Vernon has more to offer when it’s warmer out, but Harvest at the Woodward, on South Main St., is open year-round and sells local milk, yogurt, eggs, meat, squash, root vegetables, grains and crafts. It’s definitely worth the trip downtown.
The farmers’ market on the square will open again at the beginning of May. It’s the best place to see the diversity of food that’s grown and produced here, and it’s a great way to spend a Saturday morning. Miller’s Farm Market, at the fork of Newark Rd. and Martinsburg Rd., is my personal favorite place to get local food in Mount Vernon. The market is run by a Mennonite family who grow most of the produce they sell there on their farm in the northeastern part of Knox County. They also sell fresh bread, deli meats, local jams and dry goods and flowers. The market opens on Mother’s Day weekend, so it’s a great place to stop on your way out of town for the summer.
It’s our responsibility as consumers to be conscious of where our money is going, and one of the best ways to do that is to know who grew your food and where it’s coming from. Local food — and especially produce — is not only generally better for you; it also keeps money in our community so we can continue to foster a vibrant local food system.
Charlotte Graham ’13 is the AVI sustainability assistant. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.