Friday, July 17, 2009

Brief Thoughts on Buying Local

At last night's entertaining Ignite Boise 2, a recurring theme was the importance of thinking and buying local. Several presenters suggested the current economy provides an opportunity to return to a more local economy. They advocated bartering, growing your own food and buying from Idaho businesses.

Of course, eating (and buying) local has become trendy--but often, would-be "locavores" get excited about buying local foods, but then lose steam when it seems too difficult or expensive.

I love Idaho foods, and it's not unusual for our meals to be 100% local. The quality and variety available is amazing.

But I also recognize that there are some common pitfalls when consumers start out with buying local.

Here are some tips for beginning locavores that will help you avoid those pitfalls.

1. Don't start at 100%. There's a common belief that if you're eating local, you have to commit 100%. But that is difficult, and makes what should be fun stressful. Buying 10% of your food from local farmers and producers makes a huge difference. Start small.

2. Don't get hung up on the details. Some folks decide they want to make a local meal, but then get caught up on some small ingredient, like salt. You won't find locally produced Idaho salt. And it doesn't matter. Trade has been a part of humanity for millenia and that's not going to change. While there is not Idaho salt, we can buy excellent Idaho lamb, Idaho potatoes, Idaho duck eggs and many other products.

3. Try new recipes. One of the real pleasures of eating local is trying new foods. Vary up your recipes and incorporate kale, or blue potatoes, or fava beans. You'll soon realize there's more actual diversity at the farmer's market than crammed into all those aisles at the supermarket.

4. Enjoy it. Buying local isn't doctrine. Don't approach it as a set of rules you must follow. Instead, find high-quality food and enjoy it. Rediscover what a tomato is supposed to taste like. Try grilling grass-fed beef. Stroll around a farmer's market. Plant your own veggies.

In short have fun--while benefiting Idaho's economy, rural heritage and wildlife habitat.--Matt Miller

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