Locavore: One who subscribes to the practice of eating food that is grown locally.
There are many reasons a person might choose to live the life of a locavore. Maybe you want to support and sustain local businesses by keeping money circulating within the local economy. Or maybe you're determined to be more eco-conscious, reducing the carbon footprint of the food you consume. (After all, if it is grown locally it's not trucked in from thousands of miles away). Or perhaps your green inclinations run even deeper, and you've concluded that eating local is a way of supporting small-production methods of agriculture instead of large-scale operations that utilize greenhouse-gas-emitting machinery that eventually strip the land of its nutrients, rendering it infertile. Or maybe you just like the taste
Whether the reasons are personal or political, economic or ecologic, there is no doubt that the locavore trend is gaining momentum as people become increasingly conscious of where their food comes from.
In the Ann Arbor area, the opportunities to practice living like a locavore are almost limitless. An environmentally-conscious cosmopolitan area surrounded by sprawling hectares of farmland, Washtenaw County is uniquely well-suited for the locavore lifestyle.
Interested, but not sure where to begin? Well, when in doubt, have it delivered!
Produce and Dairy Delivery
Door-to-Door Organics: The company delivers its customizable produce boxes to most of Michigan. Customers choose their desired box size, and each week an assortment of fresh, organic produce is delivered to your home. Door-to-Door sources from local organic farmers, including Hampshire Farms in Kingston, MI.
Calder Dairy Farm (Lincoln Park): Its glass milk bottles will take you back to a time when jokes about kids looking like the milk man made sense. Alongside the moo juice Calder makes 37 flavors of New England style ice cream, Egg Nog, yogurt, cottage cheese, whipping cream, buttermilk, half & half, and more. All products are available for home delivery, and there is also a dairy store on the farm.
Specialty Markets and Farms
Farmers’ Markets (which we'll name check later on) are wonderful resources for local foodstuffs but are subject to extremely limited hours. Co-ops are great but don't always have what you need. So where else can you go? Start with any number of the specialty retailers committed to bringing you fresh products sourced locally, or go straight to the farm itself.
Sparrow Meats (Ann Arbor): Both a market and butcher shop, Sparrow offers a variety of meats raised on Michigan farms, including Amish chicken, grass-fed beef, veal, and lamb, as well as young game hens, and sausage made in-house.
Arbor Farms Produce (Ann Arbor): Serving the Ann Arbor community since 1979, Arbor Farms offers local and organic produce, Amish and organic chicken, natural pork and turkey, fresh seafood, a gourmet deli, and breads and sweets from the area's finest bakeries. Its biggest stand-out, however, is the Michigan grass-fed beef raised on small Michigan farms, with a flavor and texture even the most discriminating local omnivore would love!
Dawn Farm (Ypsilanti): Good food and good works. Dawn Farm is a place of recovery for those struggling with substance dependencies, but it also raises hormone-free chicken, pork, and beef, as well as turkeys for Thanksgiving. Call Ashley at 734.485.8725 to order.
With Thanksgiving just a couple months away, there are also several farms that offer locally raised free-range turkeys. Check out Ernst (734.662.8085) and Fletcher Farms (734.663.8649) in Ann Arbor, Aric VanNatter Turkeys in Dexter, or John Harnois Turkeys in Pickney.
Zingerman’s Bakehouse (Ann Arbor) : The Bakehouse, part of the Zingerman’s Empire, sources grains from all over the region, though not from the state itself. However, it does utilize other local ingredients in its breads. All the milk, heavy cream, and sour cream comes from Guernsey Dairy in Novi. Produce like apples, rhubarb, basil, and tomatoes comes from local farms in Ypsilanti and Dexter. The maple syrup for oatmeal cookies and bran muffins comes from RMG Family Sugarbush in Rudyard, MI, and the beer in the beer bread comes from Michigan Brewing Company.
Mill Pond Bread (Chelsea): Part of a Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA), Mill Pond is similar to a co-op in that community members buy “shares” (a share is two loaves of bread every Saturday for 60 days), a CSA is simply a community of individuals who pledge their support to a farm or small business operation. Mill Pond Bread uses local and organic ingredients whenever possible, and is available for purchase at Morgan & York, the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market, and in their Chelsea bakery.
Community Farm Kitchen Bakery (Ann Arbor): Another CSA that works together with the Community Farm of Ann Arbor to provide families with the freshest, most local food possible in the most convenient manner. Members pay at the beginning of the season for a share of each week’s harvest at the farm, and the CFK staff then collects the produce and creates a variety of fresh dishes which can be finished and served easily at home. Their newly-launched bakery churns out whole wheat bread, crunchy granola, bran muffins, seven grain bread, oatmeal cookies, and even vegan items every week, which can be pre-ordered and picked up at the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market on Saturdays.
Zingerman’s Creamery (Ann Arbor): Zing's makes a variety of fresh, creamy cheeses in-house, with a different specialty cheese featured every month. It uses Calder Dairy milk in its cheeses and gelatos and produce from Cornman Farms in Dexter. Aspiring cheesemongers can also take seasonal Mozzarella-making classes and their cream cheese was a First Place winner at the American Cheeese Society Awards.
Washtenaw Dairy (Ann Arbor): The dairy uses milk from Prairie Farms, a family-owned co-op dairy in Saginaw, to make its milk products. It offers eggs, butter, sour cream, French onion dip, milk, and a wide assortment of different cheeses including Gouda, Brie, and Cheddar, all made in-house.
Honey, Maple Syrup, and Tofu (Yes, Tofu)
Dancing Crane Honey Farm (Ann Arbor; 734.332.0737): An all-volunteer farm, its honey is raw, unfiltered, and cold-processed, and has been sold all over the world. It is completely unlike anything you would buy in a grocery store. Call or email for more information or to attend an open house honey tasting events.
Snow’s Sugarbush Maple Syrup (Mason; 517.676.1653): There aren’t many sugarbushes (groves of sugar maples) in the immediate Ann Arbor area, but thankfully Mason, MI’s Snow’s takes orders by phone. Order genuine Grade A or B maple syrup as well as maple cream, maple candy, granulated maple sugar, and maple fudge, all made on the farm.
Rosewood Farms (Ann Arbor): Validating the rest of the state's assumptions about Ann Arbor, Rosewood is a local producer and distributor of tofu, soy milk, cheese and other soy and dairy products. Tofu is made fresh, with non-GMO locally-sourced soybeans, in the most traditional manner. Cheeses, made with goat and cow milk from local dairy farms, are both hormone and antibiotic free.
Beer, Wine, Coffee and, yes, Pop
With your meal there must be a beverage. But what to drink with your Michigan heirloom tomato salads and your Michigan grass-fed beef? Once again, the land provides.
There are a number of wine-growing regions in Michigan, including the Pioneer Wine Trail of Southeastern Michigan. Michigan’s climate is well-suited for the flourishing of European vinifera grapes, and the state's wineries are producing some of the finer Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Cab Franc this side of the Atlantic. If you want comprehensive information on what the Mitten State has to offer when it comes to the fruit of the vine, check out the Michigan Wines website.
St. Julian Winery (Dundee and Parma): Michigan’s oldest, largest, and most award-winning winery uses grapes from 100 different growers in southern Michigan. Their wines are widely available in wine shops and grocery stores all over, as well as on its website.
Sandhill Crane Vineyards (Jackson): All wines are estate-grown and bottled. The vintner offers free tastings in its wine room (open year-round), and will also be offering tastings and sales at the Dexter Cider Mill through autumn.
Cherry Creek Cellars (Parma and Brooklyn): They have their own Pinot Noir and Vidal Blanc vineyards and have also recently added some new varietals, but any fruit purchased off the premises must come from other Michigan growers. Even their oak barrels are from Michigan, whenever possible! Their wines are available for purchase through their website and wine room.
With Michigan ranking as the sixth biggest microbrewery state in the country, there is no shortage of frosty options. But Michigan’s brewers have it rough. As much as they might want to source locally, at present time the barley and wheat that can be obtained locally must be malted, and currently no local hops farms are producing. (Which means that grains would have to be shipped across the country to be malted and then shipped back again, defeating two of the major purposes of buying local—energy conservation and supporting local farms.)
There is good news, though. New hops farms are opening in Michigan, and by 2010 local brewers will be using Michigan hops in their beers!
Though local pubs like Grizzly Peak, The Blue Tractor, and Milan's Original Gravity Brewing Company (try the jalapeno-spiced 440 Pepper Smoker) offer tasty suds, only two provide you with bottled brews for home consumption.
Ann Arbor Brewing Company (Ann Arbor) and Corner Brewery (Ypsilanti): Owners Matt and Renee Gref are working closely with local growers to help them meet their needs, but in the meantime the Brewing Co.’s restaurants have already made the commitment to locavorism with a predominantly locally-sourced menu, which has been tremendously successful. Couple that with active participation in their communities --such as Corner Brewery playing host to the Shadow Art Fair-- and an ever-changing menu of interesting handmade ales (Espresso Love Breakfast Stout, anyone?), and you have a true blue example of local involvement.
Jolly Pumpkin Brewery (Ann Arbor): Coming soon to a storefront near you, the exotic and award-winning ales of Dexter-based Jolly Pumpkin. Not only is the brewery adding a tap room to its Dexter operations but it's also opening a eatery to complement its unique brews. Along with the upscale flavors are the most gorgeous beer labels you've ever seen.
Coffee, Tea, Cider and Pop
This is where it gets a bit tricky. Our climate does not allow for the flourishing of coffee beans or tea trees, which is a sad thing for caffeine addicts committed to locavorism to hear. But there is still a way for locavores to enjoy such indulgences while remaining steadfast-ish to their vows of a hoe-grown diet. Buy from local coffee roasters and tea exporters.
Mighty Good Coffee (Ann Arbor): MGC is the result of a graduate-level marketing paper coupling with a pot of Costco coffee. Three years later, owner David Myers is serving some of Ann Arbor’s finest locally-roasted coffee in markets, restaurants, bakeries... even an auto shop, a title agency, and a gym. Mighty clever!
Roos Roast (Ann Arbor): Another local roaster whose beans are available in a number of area markets, restaurants, and auto repair shops. Ann Arbor is the place to be for good coffee with your car repair! Lobster Butter Love is a huge hit; coffee is also available for purchase online.
Arbor Teas (Ann Arbor): Arbor Teas, a husband-and-wife-run business based in Ann Arbor, proudly offers one of the largest selections of USDA-certified organic loose leaf teas on the Internet. They are also an official licensee of TransFairUSA, offering Fair Trade certified products. All products can be ordered online.
Dexter Cider Mill (Dexter): The Dexter Cider Mill is the oldest continuously operating cider mill in Michigan. The cider making process hasn't changed in 120 years. The oak rack press itself is 100 years old. It also makes apple pies, doughnuts, apple nut bread, and more from scratch in its own bakery, and sells a variety of apple products (like apple butter, jellies, and vinegar). It's open until mid-November.
Faygo (Detroit): 102 years old and still going strong. Yeah, we could pop a vein over what goes into your average can of soda pop (it's not pretty) but the fact is, if you're going to buy carbonated sugary liquids that rot your teeth you might as well buy local.
Farmers’ Markets are hardly a new idea, and though they’re becoming increasingly popular places to buy food, they’ve always been the best source for locally-grown produce. Farmers’ markets give local growers the opportunity to share their crops with the crowds without the cost of trucking them long distances. Locavores will find organic produce, eggs, baked goods, preserves, honey, herbs, as well as fresh-cut flowers, plants, crafts, artwork, and jewelry from local farmers and craftspeople. Here's a quick round up of local markets and their hours of operation.
- Ann Arbor Farmers' Market (Ann Arbor): Open year-round, May through December, Wednesday and Saturday 7AM-3PM; January through April, Saturdays 8AM-3PM. Located in Kerrytown.
- Westside Farmers' Market (Ann Arbor): June through September, Thursdays 3-7PM, in the parking lot of Zingerman's Roadhouse.
- Depot Town Farmers' Market (Ypsilanti): Open May through October, Wednesdays 10AM- 2PM; Saturdays 8AM- 3PM, next to the Freighthouse.
- Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers' Market (Ypsilanti): Open May through October, Tuesdays 2-6PM, in the Key Bank parking lot.
- Chelsea Farmers' Market (Chelsea): Open May through October, Saturdays 8AM-12PM, on Park Street in downtown Chelsea.
- Saline Farmers' Market (Saline): May through October, Saturdays 8AM-12PM, on the corner of Ann Arbor Street and Michigan Avenue.
- Dexter Farmers' Market (Dexter): Open May through October, Tuesdays 4-7PM, Saturdays 8AM-1PM, next to the Dexter District Library.
Nicole Rupersburg is a freelance writer and popular Metro Detroit food blogger. Read her blog at http://www.diningindetroit.net.
All Photos by Dave Lewinski
The Counter at Zingerman's Bakehouse-Ann Arbor
Calder Dairy-Lincoln Park
Michigan Bacon and Dearborn Ham at Sparrow-Kerrytown Ann Arbor
Making Something Delicious at Zingerman's Bakehouse
Locally Made Cheeses Get the Front Row at Zingerman's Creamery-Ann Arbor
The Cheese Room at Zingerman's Creamery-Ann Arbor
Deliveries at Zingerman's Bakehouse-Ann Arbor
That's a lot of Butter
Roos Roast at Sparrow-Kerrytown Ann Arbor
People's Food Co-op-Ann Arbor