The jury came in on this one a long time ago — we love locally grown food, we know it's good for us and tastes great and we want more.
But the question is what it always has been — how to make it happen?
The Northwest Michigan Food & Farming Network recently announced it aims to increase the amount of food purchased locally in our region to 20 percent by 2020 and it has some ideas how to do that.
Twenty percent is a lot of food. Think about how much passes through your own kitchen every week and do the math — two of every 10 items need to come from here. Toss out the Florida orange juice, the frozen peas, the canned soup, the bottled tea and the dozens of other processed foods that are so much a part of our diet.
Sure, you can find some local greenhouse-grown lettuce in the dead of winter and there is outstanding local cheese and lots of local bakeries. And during the summer, the local bounty — vegetables, cherries, corn, fruit and more — is overwhelming.
But translating that into 20 percent of what we eat every day is going to take effort on the part of consumers, growers and local merchants.
Mostly, though, it will take a change in attitude.
In 2008 Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools began a major effort to buy local food for its lunch program. Dining service administrator Michael Bauer led an effort to bring fresh, locally grown food into the system's cafeterias. Food crews prepared all meals from scratch with local meat, local herbs and local vegetables. Finding local sources for that food was work.
At a food summit last month, the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce said it will require at least 20 percent of food at its catered events to come from local sources, and encouraged chamber members to follow suit. Given the large number of conferences and meetings every week, that's a lot of food.
A lot of this is already taking place. Local farmers markets are expanding, local supermarkets are featuring food made and grown here, and many area restaurants are putting more and more local food on the menu. To reach critical mass, though, we need more, and that starts with consumers.
There are no downsides here. Local food tastes great and usually doesn't contain the many preservatives found in processed national brands. Buying local supports farms and farmers and the open spaces we all love. And the more we buy the greater the depth and variety of local foods we'll have.