Take the one-week challenge 

Forget food miles, produce recalls and nutritional content. Leave aside the desire to bolster rural communities or save the environment. The pleasure principle is reason No. 1 to enjoy Indiana fare for Victoria Wesseler.

The author of the blog Going Local and a “local food cheerleader,” Wesseler is hoping that people across the state will treat their taste buds to meals originating close to home. As part of that effort, Wesseler spearheaded Going Local Week, Aug. 31-Sept. 6, a joint project of Purdue Extension, Ball State, local food producers and retailers, farmers markets and local chefs.

The one-week challenge to eat an Indiana-grown or -produced item at every meal is timed to take advantage of both late summer and early fall pickings. Wesseler notes that Labor Day weekend is a perfect time to try local foods at a family potluck. Other ways to mark the week include taking a farm tour, shopping at a farmers market or visiting an orchard or U-pick farm.

A diet of seasonal and local offerings has tremendous health benefits. The availability of heirloom varieties combined with the freshness factor means increased flavor and nutrition. “The longer a fruit or vegetable sits in the grocery store,” Wesseler says, “the more nutrition it loses. With local produce, you’re getting it much closer to the day of harvest.”

Keeping money close to home is another boon. “Every dollar spent paying a local farmer has a multiplier effect … That dollar will generate $2 to $5 more in the local community.”

From a food safety standpoint, there’s no beating face-to-face contact with growers. Not to mention the transportation costs saved, the sustainable practices used by most small farmers and the camaraderie of a farmers market.

At least three Indianapolis establishments are officially celebrating Going Local Week: Edibles Organic Grocery is hosting a “tasting party” Saturday afternoon, while next door The Legend Classic Irvington Café will feature local bison burgers that week. At L’explorateur, a five-course Farm to Table Dinner benefiting Slow Food Indy is offered at 6:30 p.m. Labor Day.

The decentralized nature of Going Local week is intentional. Wesseler says, “There’s no festival; there’s nothing you can point to and say that’s the Going Local event. We just want to encourage people to do their own thing to celebrate local foods.”

Support tools are available on the Going Local site, which offers recipes and stories as well as links to resources like the searchable database at Indiana Market Maker.

Also downloadable from the site is the Indiana Department of Agriculture’s 2008 Farmers Market, U-Pick and Agritourism Directory, free copies of which are available at the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association.

More information: www.goinglocal-info.com.


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