As you prepare your Thanksgiving feast, one local food expert asks you to consider just where all that nourishment came from.
Wednesday afternoon, Brittany Bethel stood in her Dubuque County kitchen, pulling out the raw materials that would soon become her and her husband's Thanksgiving feast.
"It's all local produce and cheese and dairy that we'll be using for Thanksgiving this year," she said, gesturing to the spread lying on the center island. "I thought the best way to talk about cooking local for Thanksgiving would be a kitchen."
As regional foods coordinator for Dubuque County's Iowa State University Extension office, Bethel knows there's a bounty of locally-grown goodies available. Most of the ingredients for her entire Thanksgiving meal came straight from the ground, trees, vines and creameries of the tri-state area.
"I think that it's easy, but I think you have to make it a priority," Bethel said. "It takes a little bit of transition, and a lot of that is just basic education, like what's in season."
From grocery stores and co-ops to winter farmers markets, locally-grown food is becoming increasingly available.
Over the Mississippi River in nearby Platteville, Wis., is Driftless Market, a food store that sells as much locally-sourced food as possible.
Wednesday was a busy day for co-owner Robin Timm, who said she's thankful for all the Thanksgiving business.
"It's the biggest food holiday in our country," Timm said, during a mid-afternoon lull in the day's near-constant stream of customers. "We get local produce and organic produce. Plus we have local meats, and we pre-ordered fresh, local turkeys from Lange Organic Farms that's just outside of town."
Driftless Market sold 29 local turkeys this year; a number that has grown every year since the store opened in 2008.
This is a trend Bethel said she's seeing across the board.
"I get to work with consumers, but I also get to work with institutions like colleges and K-12 food service directors and chefs at restaurants," she said. "The response I've gotten is so positive. Everyone's interested. Everyone knows the value."
Food exerts say local food is positively impacting Iowa's economy. A new report, which Bethel produced through the ISU Extension office, tracked 10 farmers who grow food in Dubuque, Jackson, Jones and Delaware counties. Combined, their sales in 2012 added more than $430,000 to the local economy.
Check out the ISU Ext. Buy Fresh Buy Local 2013 guide for Dubuque County and the surrounding area HERE.
Click HERE for the study examining local foods' impact on the economy.
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