Bruce Evans

By Bruce Evans, MATC Executive Chef

Recently there has been a whole bushel of banter in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin about eating local. The most recent surge in local foods was introduced by a band of local chefs in their drive for pure, unadulterated food. Originally dismissed as a trend and only for the well-to-do, the local food movement has taken root in Wisconsin and has become readily available in all circles. Even retail giant Walmart has adopted a sustainable food initiative and has committed to goals to improve the livelihoods of farmers with small and medium-size farms.

Isn’t all food local? Just walk down the block to the local Pick ‘n Save and fill up your cart. That’s not how local food works. Local food is described as food grown (or raised) in a geographic region near the consumer. No one can agree on the exact distance determining what is local. Some say it’s within 50 miles, some say 100, and some define it as being grown in the home state. Regardless of opinion, the emphasis needs to go to the preservation of the family farms.

In contrast to the local food movement is the current global food model. This model includes mega-agricultural corporations. While doing their best to increase food output, these corporate giants will often use unnecessary pesticides, genetically modified plants, or growth hormones in their livestock.  These practices are designed to keep the costs of food down. However, with airfare, trucking and other logistical costs added to the price of the products, any potential savings to consumers are reduced.  Additionally, there is substantial controversy on how factory-style farming and modified foods are affecting the overall health of the consumer. Look around. You decide.

There are many benefits to the local food system:

Local food is fresher and tastes better.

Food grown and offered by local farmers was probably picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor.

Buying local is better for you.

Fresh produce can lose nutrients quickly. Most factory-style farm products travel an average of 1,500 miles and may take up to a week to go from the farm to the table.

Buying local supports local farmers and the local economy.

Money spent with small, independent farms stays in the community.

Buying local reduces carbon and helps the environment.

Locally produced food has a significantly lower carbon footprint since it doesn’t have to travel across the country or overseas.

The best route for local foods is your local farmers market. Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin have numerous farmers throughout the community. The farmers markets will give you a chance to reintroduce yourself to fresh, flavorsome and nutritious foods. It gives you the opportunity to meet the farmers and have the first pick of their fruits, vegetables or meat items.

For more about the farmers markets in your area, follow this link to the dates and times of the 2015 farmers markets in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin: