Welcome to the first installment of the “Eat Mendocino Daily Report,” and the first day of the second half of this yearlong locavore adventure. There is no better way to start a Monday than with a hearty breakfast. I cooked up some breakfast potatoes and two of Gowan’s quail eggs, served with homemade yogurt. Quail eggs are adorable and delicious, but it takes a lot of these to fill a girl up.
Most homesteaders are experiencing egg abundance at this time of year and eating them with every meal. But, since I’m allergic to chicken eggs, and I have no alternative feathered fowl of my own, I have to import them. I have run out of duck eggs, and sadly most of Gowan’s quail were killed by a skunk or raccoon recently. One of the complications of the carless life is transporting a few key ingredients from A to B, over long windy roads. I do most of my shopping at the Farmers’ Markets every week, but there are some missing items. The egg beacon is shining, and there will be a balance of power on the morning breakfast plate soon.
This afternoon I went to a monumental and exciting meeting with Harvest Market, our largest locally-owned grocer on the Mendocino Coast. The meeting had been initiated by owner Tom Honer who expressed an interest in getting more local produce on the shelves. This is basically a locavore’s dream come true. Today I sat down with these fantastic folks to talk about the nuts and bolts of making it happen. From left to right, Produce Buyer Jesse, Farm to Fork Coordinator Susan Lightfoot, and Manager Tim Bosma.
We discussed the challenges to integrating locally sourced food into the grocery store and how to work strategically with farmers and consumers to carve out a niche for locally produced goods. The idea is to synchronize with the Farmers’ Markets and line it up so that farmers can make deliveries when they come to market. The hope is this expands into a year-round program. Main concerns were:
- Keeping prices good for farmers, competitive on the shelves and not to compete with the Farmers’ Market
- The need to feature the stories of the local farms and their products (especially rare and unusual produce items)
- How to differentiate local produce from the two main existing categories in the market: Organic vs. Conventional – creating a whole new concept for the shopper.
- Finding and sourcing products from local farms – we can certainly help with that since we have become food ninjas!
- Signage to highlight local products
- Creating a clear structure for local producers that walk them through what is required to sell to Harvest, learning from what other stores have done such as Ukiah Natural Foods Cooperative and the Westside Renaissance Market
- Possible farmer demos to build direct relationships
This is a groundbreaking conversation that will establish a foundation for bringing a significant amount of locally-produced food on to the shelves at the grocery store. As a locavore, one of the greatest challenges is the lack of access to local food, and the outrageous inconvenience of having to buy things at many different locations, during very specific times of day. Plus, many Farmers’ Markets are seasonal and there are months where it is tremendously challenging to track down some local sustenance. Integrating the local food producers into our markets is an essential first step toward a local food economy that can work with our crazy lives.
As Susan said, we can use this opportunity to challenge the consumer to think about “local first.” Instead of going to the store with a list of exactly what you want, this is a chance to see what’s available and start there. This is how we have built every meal since January 1st, and it is no small feat, but it is part of shifting our mindset from what we want to seeing what we already have.
I am wildly excited about this burgeoning effort and highly optimistic that the right people are behind it to actually make it happen. This would be a great time to send love letters to Tom Honer and Tim Bosma and applaud their efforts. Of course, I promised that Gowan and I would be there waving our Eat Mendocino flag when they launch their new local food section, and bring all our fans with us.