Buying local promotes the local economy by supporting hard working families in our community. It also provides healthier options because many farmers who grow for local markets grow for taste, diversity, and healthfulness, rather than durability, transportation and uniformity. Locally grown food, harvested at the family farm, is harvested and delivered to your family when its taste and nutritional value are at their peak. You will enjoy unique and flavorful heirloom vegetables and fruits, as well as pastured meats that are not readily available in the supermarket. Even with Minnesota's abbreviated growing season, we have access to a wonderful variety of food. Minnesota farmers are doing great things to help keep and promote diversity in our food supply. More variety in the food supply results in more stability.
Defining local is challenging. For our purposes, we try to find sources of food within approximately 100 miles of the Twin Cities. However, Minnesota offers some unique foods that are not grown immediately surrounding the Twin Cities, but our community recognizes them as a definitive part of our culinary culture. We are pleased to be able to include growers and producers from around the state with unique products that add to the quality and diversity of our offerings. In general, we believe fresh food should come from as near as possible. On the other hand, products with extended shelf life may come from around the state or western Wisconsin.
Local food is not necessarily organic. However, Twin Cities Local Food is committed to finding farmers and producers who employ sustainable agricultural practices, and avoid using chemical fertilizers and pesticides as much as possible. While we do have producers whose farms and/or facilities are certified organic, certification is a lengthy and costly process for farmers that allows them to market their products as such, and provide consumers with a higher level of confidence that their food is produced without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Even so, we trust that all of our producers are using practices that minimize negative impacts on the health of consumers and the land that they work. We require a high level of transparency among our producers. We believe the success of a community and Twin Cities Local Food depends on trust.
Defining Local Food
We've learned that it can be confusing to sift through some of the language used when talking about local and sustainable foods. Supermarkets and restaurants market products as local or all natural without explanation of what that means. To customers that are discriminating about their food, that opens a lot of questions. That is one of the reasons we started Twin Cities Local Food, and why our website is designed the way it is. One of our purposes is to create as much transparency as possible, between conscientious consumers and farmers. A few terms are listed below that you will see with some frequency when shopping with Twin Cities Local Food, and are followed with a brief explanation.
Local - We consider local to be within about 100 miles of the Twin Cities metro. That is a general guideline and we are glad to make an exception for unique products that are grown in Minnesota or western Wisconsin that extends beyond 100 miles.
Sustainable - This term is used in the food business with a lot of flexibility, and it is difficult to put a strict definition with it. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines sustainable as "of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged." Twin Cities Local Food requires all of our farmers to employ practices that fit within this framework. We consider the soils that grow our food and the water that gives us life are precious resources, and should be treated as such, and that means we want our farmers to use practices that reduce or eliminate the need for harmful pesticides and fertilizers.
Certified Organic - Organic certification guarantees that a product is grown in a manner that meets the US Department of Agriculture's standards. Certification is a lengthy process for farmers that requires documentation of farming practices. A farm that is certified organic is allowed to use the USDA Organic seal. Some, but not all of our farmers are certified organic. Those who are, are able to label their products on the TCLF website, as such. By gaining certification, a farm is able to guarantee that it uses practices that are considered sustainable. For lots of good information about this subject, click this link to the USDA's National Organic Program website.