Local Yokels

Pickles from India?
I found out not too long ago, that the pickles I was purchasing were produced in India. That made me start to wonder where my food was coming from. So, I started asking. For the most part, no one knew. Some of the items that I was purchasing to feed my family contained as many as 35 ingredients, with only one or two of the 35 ingredients originating in the United States, much less the midwest, or Wisconsin. The fact that I had no idea what many of the ingredients were was also quite troubling. I love Indian Food, but, kosher dill pickles produced in India are not what I would expect to see on my local grocer’s shelf.

But We Love Good Food
So I started going to the Farm Market on a regular basis. I planted a small garden in a Community Garden in Kaukauna. I began growing some of my own food, and eating food grown locally. Then, along came winter and I was back to canned soups and processed tomatoes.  For several years, I continued this cycle. Our family frequented fast food restaurants and bought frozen pizzas by the dozen. But, we were becoming aware.

I grew up in rural Wisconsin on what my father called a “hobby farm”.

We had a LARGE garden, raised chickens, ducks, geese, had one sheep, a pony and other creatures along the way – including a pet racoon named Squeaky. When I started to garden as an adult, I couldn’t believe how much I remembered about gardening from all those days spent with my parents planting, weeding, watering, hoeing…you get the idea. At the time,  I thought that gardening was a little slice of hell and wished my mom would just buy tomatoes like everyone else’s parents did.  But, much to my dismay, years later, I realized how much I learned during those long hot summers.  We were locavores but  had no idea that we were locavores. It wasn’t anything special, it was just the way we lived. When I was 12 my family left that farmette for life in the city. We never had another garden, we started purchasing all of our food at the grocery store and my mom no longer canned rows and rows of peaches. I wish I could tell you that I missed it, but truth be told, at the time I never realized how special it was. 

Life Goes On
As it always does, life goes on. I moved from my hometown, Sheboygan, to the Fox Valley and went on with my life. I worked in various jobs, all seemingly centered around food in one way or another. I guess you could say, I LOVE food. Everything about it, so it’s no small wonder that I would be continually drawn to food. When after a discussion with some coworkers, I decided to plant a garden in Kaukauna, there was no turning back. Over the past 4 years, I have been trying to make up for all the lost years I spent eating mindlessly and have been learning, experimenting, shopping, sampling, sharing as much about local foods as I could. The problem was, I wasn’t committed. I made the choice when convenient. Buying local foods can be more expensive than industrial foods and it definitely takes more time. I cut a lot of corners in my life and this was usually the place I started.

Pickles from India?
I know, I already said that but, that was the beginning AND the turning point of this story. As a citizen of planet Earth, once that information was given to me, there was no stopping me. I learned that not only is eating locally sourced food better for the environment, it’s better for the economy, our health, our community and our overall sense of well-being. I started talking to farmers and growers and found that they had a voice that needed to be heard and food that needed to be EATEN. And what better way to do it than with a brightly colored truck serving delicious made from scratch food.

The Bottom Line
People often say to us that we could make a lot more money and save a lot of time and effort by contacting one of the large food service distributors. We are a business, and a family and we do need to earn a fair wage, but so do the producers, farmers, processors and growers we purchase from. So, we will continue to spend a little more and work a little harder to make sure that we are using the freshest, cleanest, fairest and best ingredients we can find close to home. 

Trial and Error
I am sure you will see a lot of things change. You will see us make mistakes but we will continue to learn and challenge ourselves and those around us to change how they think about their food and where it comes from. We are new to this and expect many challenges along the way but it seems like life is now our highway and we are in this for the long haul.
(Thanks to Red Barn Family Farms and Olden Produce for some of the photos in this post.)

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