Since moving to Ann Arbor, Chris and I have found ourselves making some changes in the way we live our lives. Neither of us had a big discussion about how we wanted to "buy local" wherever possible, but it has become a matter of some importance to us. Perhaps it's the fact that when you live in a smaller community like this, you get a greater sense of the impact of spending your dollar wisely. Perhaps it's the fact that we walk into and around town frequently, which means we know the local business better and are more in touch with what's available. And it's all certainly helped by the fact that Ann Arbor is a sworn enemy of the big box retailers, reluctantly allowing them to crop up only on the outskirts of town.
It means that sometimes we spend a little more money than we might otherwise -- buying running shoes from a local shop at $10 or so more than at Sports Authority -- because we know our money goes to support the local economy and not, say, world domination. Not everyone can afford to make those decisions, and we certainly spend our fair share of dough at Target and other national chains, but it's nice to be able to from time to time.
One of my favorite spring and summer traditions is our Saturday stroll into town for the Farmer's Market. Now, compared to the fantabulous Soulard Market in St. Louis, the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market is teeny tiny and, it seems to me, far more expensive. But it's within walking distance of our house and it allows us to pick up whatever's in season at fair prices while supporting local community farms, eating semi-organically, and (at least we like to imagine) taking a smaller chunk out of the environment (considering fuel costs and emissions for our produce to travel from California or further).
My friend Margaret in St. Louis inspired me to look into buying a produce share here. Although we're too late to get on board for this year, I think we'll get in on it next year. There are several organic farmers in the area who sell shares. The way it works is that you become a member or a share-holder in a local farm and, in return, you get a box full of their produce every week or so. (If you don't know about community supported agriculture or want to find a CSA farm near you, go here.)
Today we picked up the bounty pictured at the beginning of this post -- absolutely gorgeous sweet red strawberries, organic leafy green lettuce, organic orange and red tomatoes, snow peas, organic green onions and broccoli. The only thing that set us back more than I care to admit were the organic orange and red tomatoes, which were $3.95 a pound. The sticker price for four was shocking but I couldn't bring myself to argue with the Amish girl who sold then to me. Despite her bonnet, she looked like she might be able to take me.
Now we're planning dinner tonight based around our purchases, which is kind of a fun way to do things. I'll make a salad of the tomatoes with fresh basil and balsamic vinaigrette. We'll pick up some mahi at the grocery store and grill it, with a mango-lime-avocado salsa we've only just invented in our head. Toss the snow peas with a little olive oil and garlic and grill them in a basket and voila! A largely local dinner. Aren't we something?