Have you ever opened up a can of coconut milk and thought, "where is this from, who picked those coconuts, and how in the world did it end up in my pantry"? No? Well... we have, and so has one of our favorite bloggers, Andrea Bemis from Dishing Up the Dirt. These thoughts have led her to a project called The Local Thirty, and for the month of September the Markets Team will be giving it a try too.

Every time we pick something up at the grocery store, there's an untold story about the product. Questions go unanswered and trust is built on generic labels, or let's be honest, maybe just our taste buds. But when you're at a farmers market, you're surrounded by the people who made your food. You can shake the hand that grew those heirloom tomatoes and chat up the local coffee roaster to find out where they are sourcing their coffee beans. The answers are all right there, you just have to ask. Striking up a conversation about the details can be intimidating, and even though I've managed the market for three seasons now, I still learn something new every week.

I've come to consider myself a locavore, but still find mysterious bottles of spices and bags of grains sitting in my pantry and making up parts of meals. And each season I think that I'm going to do a great job of tracking my grocery budget and sharing my meal plans with you all, but within the first or second market week I'm exhausted and have already quit (some attempt at this project can be found in the What's Fresh blog section). 

Enter: The Local Thirty

What's the Local Thirty? It's a challenge of sorts (more of a learning experience, really) to spend thirty days eating from within 200 miles of your home. This means diving deep, and looking into the ingredients in packaged goods, and also trying out new foods and recipes. It's also meant to get you to ask the questions and meet the makers and growers you shop from each week. The market team has decided to join the project, and we want to invite you to do so as well!

The Details:

What: Eating food made within Michigan. Living in a peninsula, that just makes more sense for us. While we enjoy the idea of getting deep in the details of ingredients and sourcing, we also recognize that most of our producers are not using 100% local ingredients. For example, flours and other grains are not plentiful in Michigan. Oils and spices can also be hard to find here. ie) We wouldn't be able to buy bread from any of our market bakers, or beer from all those Kalamazoo brewers. Instead, we'll highlight a few producers throughout the month that are buying from some local farms and businesses. 

Cheats: Life is short and most of us are fueled by coffee. We'll each be picking out ten cheats that we feel we can't live without.

When: Thirty Days throughout September. It's peak season and the market tables are bursting with all the good stuff!

Why: To get connected with our community and local food systems.

Who: Everyone! The market team will be giving you updates each week this month. All four of us have a slightly different diet, and each week will feature someone new. We'll tell you about our diets, what we bought this week, how much it cost, a new recipe, and something we learned. The team includes Gaby Gerken (your basic omnivore), Megan Kucks (keto), Grace McElhone (vegan), and Cid Abel (paleo). 

Contest: Want to join? Share what you're making and what you've learned on social media. Post your photos and use the hashtages #localthirtykzoo #localthirty and #kalamazoofarmersmarket, and at the end of the month we'll pick two random winners who will get a prize from the Markets and PFC Natural Grocery and Deli.

We look forward to seeing what you've learned this next month! Stay tuned for more.