The Other Side of Local

Northstar Notes

Food raised in Minnesota is local, regardless of farm or business size.

Published on: November 21, 2013

When the metro newspaper arrives on Thursdays, one section is devoted to food. By the time I am done reading it, which is usually when I'm eating lunch, I've got some good suggestions for new recipes and restaurants to try.

My favorite restaurant reviewer is truly an artistic food journalist. He paints savory word pictures with his adjective-laden prose about foods he has sampled at restaurants all over the greater metro area.

Last week, he featured a new restaurant that noted on its menu:

"The attention [to architectural details and interior design] permeates down to the tableware, enough to make a person wish a where-to-buy list was printed on the menu, perhaps below [the chef's] locally sourced ingredients roll call (although placing Old Home and Gold n' Plump corporate brands on the 'our partner ranchers, farmers & artisan producers' list pretty much defines the phrase 'a stretch')."

Groan. Another metro journalist falling into the too-big-and-not-local-enough-for-me abyss.

Don't Minnesota farmers produce and sell milk and chickens to Old Home and Gold n' Plump?

Aren't these farms 'local?'

Aren't these companies in Minnesota?

If so, they are all 'local' in my book. And that's no stretch, not even by a country mile.

They are certainly more local that the sources providing coffee, orange juice, salmon and other out-of-state ingredients for various restaurant dishes.

The fact that those raw products are processed by companies that operate in facilities larger than local post office buildings should not disqualify them from being 'local.' And the fact that they are 'corporate brands' is insignificant. Big doesn't equate bad. The newspaper that featured this restaurant review is a corporation. Whole Foods is incorporated. Corporations exist for business reasons.

I said it before and I'll say it again: We need farms, of all sizes, of all management styles, of all production niches.

What we don't need are the non-food producers telling the food producers how to run their businesses. Farmers are weary of the labels that lump their products into categories (genetically modified, confinement, feedlot, organic, natural, hormone-free) that imply 'good' or 'bad' purely for marketing purposes.

Farming is a business, no matter the size of the herd or number of acres.

Farmers and their families live in houses on their acreage, drink water from their wells, eat vegetables from their gardens and eat meat from livestock they've grown.

Gosh, how much more local can you get than that?