Local Food Covers a Wide Spectrum

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Chicago urban farm

What do you do with a city building that needs refurbishing? You turn it into a local food production center!

That is exactly what’s happening in St Paul, Minnesota. The St Paul Foundation ran a contest to design a four-story building for reuse with a million prize to get the project off the ground. There were almost 1000 entries, and Urban Oasis a local food center, won! The other two finalists had to do with the arts. The public was voting, and more than half of them voted for the Urban Oasis. That says a lot about what people want!

The Urban Oasis will offer an area for producing and processing food, a café, a food truck, classes, commercial kitchens and a venue for events. It will allow local food producers an opportunity to market and distribute their products. This will improve the local economy as well as the local food industry for farmers and consumers alike under one roof. Win/win!

Support Local Food

The Urban Oasis is a huge project. There are other aspects of local food, though, that are just as important and maybe not so obvious.

Shop at the farmers market or a farm stand on the side of the road. This supports your local growers and keeps food money in your community.

Eat at restaurants and shop at markets that buy from local farms or small growers. Sometimes home gardeners have an abundance of produce, and they sell it to restaurants and small markets.

Grow your own and share your bounty with your friends.

A Barter Economy

Local food is also bartering for food you need. I have done a lot of this over the growing season. I grew most of what I ate this summer, and I bartered for things I needed or food I could not grow.

I traded my lettuce mix for garlic and my basil seedlings for goat cheese. When my lettuce stopped producing in between plantings, I traded my herbed vinegar and zucchini for a friend’s lettuce over the span of a couple of weeks. (I eat a LOT of salad!) I traded pesto for kale and enough tomatoes, zucchini and onions to put away for winter. I traded dried herbs for gluten-free pizza (I can’t eat wheat).

I bartered native plants in my garden for dilly green beans, massage and raspberry jam. I bartered space planning for aspen trees and chokecherry jam. I traded administrative work for apples, peaches and pears to put up for winter.

I grew or traded for probably 85% of my food this summer, and the season is not over yet! That is local food.

Building Community

We don’t always have to trade greenbacks for food. We all have talents, services and items we can use to get what we need. I have also met dozens of wonderful people that I never knew in my small community! Food is about people mingling with other people. I have to say, I was joyfully successful with that!

Although the Urban Oasis is a dream come true for the local food movement, there is a lot of local food activity that never makes it to the news. Grow, share, trade and create community via food.


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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.