A Local Holiday

The Christmas season is a great time to include  local foods into the menu. From sweet potatoes and apples to fresh greens and butternut squash, there are many items that will fit naturally into your holiday menus. Not only will you give your guests the gift of good taste (fresh picked packs more flavor) and extra nutrition (less travel time means more nutrients preserved), you will also be blessing farmers by supporting the local economy with your purchases.

Even with chilly temperatures and snow flurries there are still plenty of local foods available. Root crops like carrots, beets and potatoes will keep for extended times in cool storage. If you were thinking ahead, frozen corn and peas can remind us of summer as well as canned tomato sauce and beans. Farmers with high tunnels (unheated greenhouses) are able to supply fresh greens even in the winter months. Around Wayne and Holmes Counties here in Ohio, several farmers offer pastured turkeys this season as well as grass fed beef. Local grains can help create yummy baked goods, and don’t forget to top them with local honey or homemade jam.

With most farmers markets finished for the season, where can you find these culinary treasures if you don’t have them lurking in your freezer and root cellar? Driving around Amish country, we still see signs at ends of lanes for cabbages, onions and beets. Buehler’s is an area grocery chain that is intentional about buying local and you can watch for labels like “Direct from Mt. Hope Produce Auction” or “Local Apples.” We also have a wonderful resource in Wooster, Ohio called Local Roots Market and Café (if you’re in the neighborhood, it’s just a 20 minute drive from Lehman’s store). It is a year round indoor farmers cooperative with over 120 producers bringing items to sell making it a “one stop local shop.” Local Roots is open Wed-Sat and is set up like a grocery store with each item labeled by farm. You will find everything from produce and baked goods to meats and artisan cheese. Ask farmers and gardeners in your area and seek out similar venues close to your home. You never know what local treasures may be awaiting you!

Now that you’ve considered the food, where are the gifts coming from? Contrary to the glossy ads, electronic gadgets from halfway across the globe are not the only option. It will take more research and leg work, but investigating what your local area has to offer can provide meaningful gift options that are totally unique. Homemade soaps, handcrafted jewelry and pottery are great small items. Big ticket items like quality handmade furniture or a hand knit alpaca sweater are things that will not wear out in the first month (and don’t require batteries!) Again, these purchases will benefit your local economy by supporting real artisans. Check out Lehman’s catalogue for more items crafted right here in Ohio.

For further inspiration on buying local, I invite you to read our new book, Local Choices. Co-authored by Lisa Amstutz and myself with foreword by Amish farmer and author David Kline, the book offers a friendly introduction to local foods with stories, practical advice, recipes, ideas for children, gardening hints and much more. Helpful charts for seasonal foods and food preservation methods are included as well as numerous resources for those wishing to dig deeper.

By choosing local first, we can make it a truly Merry Christmas and make a difference all year round.