Consuming a diet consisting of mostly local foods may not be a novel concept, but it sure is making a comeback. Between 2010 and 2011 alone, the USDA cited a 17% increase in farmers markets throughout the United States. As locally-grown, raised, and produced goods become more accessible in terms of location, price, and year-round availability, there still remain some large gaps in the types of products being sold.
Enter: dry goods.
Sure, meats, poultry, eggs, seafood, dairy, sugars, fruits, and vegetables are now widely available from nearby producers here in Massachusetts. But what about storage staples like whole grains (and their flours), beans, nuts, and seeds? Factors like climate, limited acreage, and questionable demand can impede Northeast farmers from establishing careers in this realm of agriculture, but it seems the time might be right for such production to rise in New England.
I started to do a little research, looking for producers that were either nearby, sold their products at Greater Boston food stores or co-ops, or shipped their goods. The four following organizations seemed pretty viable options:
- Four Star Farms in Northfield, MA (whole grains, flours, hops)
- Upinngil Farm in Gill, MA (whole grains, flours)
- The Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain CSA in Amherst, MA (whole grains, dried beans and corn, milling services)
- Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, ME (whole grains, flours, dried beans, sprouting seeds)
Then I did another search via Eat Well Guide and found producers/sellers closest to me for the following product categories:
- Dried beans
- Whole grains
- Dried cranberries (now there’s some New England for ya!)
So I realize “closest to me” may be a bit of an understatement. Trust me, I do not want to drive 35, 40, or 50 miles to get local food, nor would I like it to be shipped this far. But let’s keep things in perspective. 50 miles is certainly more local than anything coming from outside of my region, and I like to support smaller-scale producers when I am able. Now, how truly “sustainable” my individualistic locavorism ranks in the grand scope of societal consumption is a whole other subject I intend to tackle here in the near future. So while I’m still figuring out the logistical issues surrounding this locavore dilemma, I’m glad to see that eating locally-sourced dry goods is not as challenging as I once imagined. And I’m almost out of flour, meaning a purchase from one of these vendors is likely in the near future!
Can you feel the excitement?!
I would love to hear about other people’s experiences in sourcing locally-produced dry goods, for personal or commercial use. Where or how did you find a producer or retailer carrying local goods? Did they offer the products you wanted? Were they competitively priced? Are the products of the quality you expected? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.
For some fun facts on local food sales growth in the United States, check out these documents from the USDA:
- Facts on Direct-to-Consumer Food Marketing (May 2009)
- Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues (May 2010)
(more on the USDA’s web resources to come…)
Okay, now onto the recipe.
I’ve been baking for several years now, but have only recently (past year or so) begun to tackle the art of bread making. Many recipes have been trialed, though few have been found to be all-out success stories. The recipe below is my absolute favorite so far, likely due to the rich flavor and incredible softness afforded by the milk, butter, and eggs; all that yeast surely helps, too.
My next challenge is to achieve the same (or almost same) quality bread with vegan substitutions; I’m thinking nut milk/cream, oil, and flax eggs. I know hardcore vegans don’t eat honey, but I’ll probably keep that the same because of its unique flavor. Of course, regular sugar or maple syrup can be used instead.
Honey Whole Wheat Rolls
Makes about 30-36 rolls
- 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 4 1/2 tsp active yeast
- 2 cups milk
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- additional flour (AP or whole wheat) as needed
In a large mixer bowl, combine the whole wheat flour and yeast. Heat milk, sugar, butter, and salt together until the mixture reaches 115-120 degrees F. Beating on a low speed, add the milk mixture to the whole wheat mixture, then add the eggs.
- To make clover leaves, divide each piece into 3 pieces, shape each into a ball, and place three balls into each section of a muffin tin.
- To make rosettes, roll each piece into a long strand, about 8 inches long. Tie into a loose knot and tuck one end into the top of the roll and one end under the roll.
- To make swirls, roll each piece into a long strand, about 8 inches long. Coil the strand into a snail-like shape.
Recipe adapted from the 1973 Better Homes and Garden Bread Cookbook via Frugal Girl.