Locally sourced food is one of the cornerstones of green living, but finding the sources you need for your regular food requirements isn't always easy. Sure, you might have a great farmer's market in the summer time; but what about locally raised free-range meat, or dairy products, or even those dry goods like flour, nuts, and canned food that are still essential?
1. Call the owner or manager of the local farmer's market and get some names.
Those vendors who are at the farmer's market are often small farmers with additional products to sell all year long. They may raise livestock and sell meat or dairy in addition to the fresh produce you pick up during the summer. Get their names and contact information from the manager of the farmer's market and get on the phone. You'll often get better prices, too, by ordering ahead of time or ordering for a group (get your friends in on this). You're supporting local farmers, getting local food, and getting better prices.
2. Research food co-ops and CSAs in your area.
Food co-op groups often form to meet the specific food demands that large grocery stores overlook. Maybe you want artisanal dairy products, or bulk dry goods, or home-delivered, locally grown produce. Use the Internet and local contacts to find people who do bulk food purchases together, and you're likely to find a wealth of information and resources about local food availability. Don't be afraid to ask what you don't know.
3. Go to websites that serve as local food directories.
There are several national sites that serve as online directories for local food producers and suppliers. You can often find a list of farmers and other food suppliers in your area. Check out these sites:
4. Put out a want ad on Craigslist.
Craigslist, or other online classified services with local targeting, can be a great way to connect with people who produce local food products, from small farmers to home bakers. Put out an ad in the wanted section, and specify what you're looking for, then give people a way to contact you. You can list the type of local food you'd like to find, and also put out a request for information from people who know where to find it. This is a great way to find home bakers or cooks who like to can preserves, make their own pickles, or come up with other homemade food offerings; they aren't a "business" but they can be a great food source, or, at the least, an information source.
5. Contact your local newspapers or area magazines.
Reporters or columnists who cover topics such as gardening, food, dining, and agricultural can often point you in the right direction to the local food suppliers you'd like to find. It's their job to be on top of stories and find contacts within those markets, and they're bound to come across local growers, bakers, gourmets, and suppliers. You can usually find a direct email address to different newspaper or magazine writers in the publication or on the publication's website. Just send a friendly query in, asking for help locating local food sources (you might specify what kind of food you're looking for) and see what kind of response you get. Who knows, maybe you'll inspire a local reporter to write about local farmers and food offerings.
Image: Martin Cathrae.