Good Local Food - How Do We Find It?

Beautiful New York lambCooking real food from scratch has always been my delight -- even my therapy. When Alice Waters spoke  at the first Growing Kentucky conference about expanding our pleasure and life satisfaction by taking time to seek out and prepare food, and when Barbara Kingsolver described the joy of eating foods from close to home, I was already a little bit warmed up. I would not have guessed, though, that I would invest as much time as I do now to look for good food and be part of small but elaborate distribution systems. Even more, I would not have imagined how much pleasure I take in knowing more of the people, land and systems that produce my food.

I know not everyone can take the time to hunt down local food sources, and many do not want to. I trust excellent, stable, affordable local food distribution systems are in the works and hope we will enjoy them in the next few years.

In the meantime, we can buy and rely on fine local foods by sharing information with each other, having patience and flexibility, and making our wishes known to each other and to growers. Especially as farmers markets are now closing for winter, you may find you can keep bringing home good local foods if you talk directly with growers and processors. Some of them will make special plans and accommodations, especially if you will buy a substantial amount of their product. You may work this out more easily by sharing with neighbors or family.

Here are some local food sources you may not know about in central Kentucky.

Lamb and beef from Four Mountains Farm at Hillsboro, in Fleming County, Kentucky. 859.333.2257. Friends have recommended Brooke Alexander's grass-fed lamb highly, and it turns out Brooke also produces beef. Brooke says, "We have about 20 beef animals and about 130 lambs available each year.The only tricky thing about the beef is that it's good to order several months in advance so that I can make sure to save animals back (rather than sell them on traditional markets at lighter weights).  For example, I may sell some in a special sale in mid-December, and I also have a friend who wants some heifers.  Several people have already ordered beef from this group to be ready in June.  Likewise, the people who are getting their beef in December started ordering this summer.  At the moment, I sell whatever is not ordered on the traditional market, especially when it is expensive to carry the larger animals over the winter with hay supplies tight (drought). I hope to get to the point where I am selling everything off the farm, but it takes advance planning since a beef takes a year and a half to be ready!"

It sounds like people in Fleming and nearby counties have a wonderful option available to them for good lamb and beef. Another meat option is recently established a bit west of Four Mountains.

Lamb and goats from Bluegrass Lamb & Goat in Paint Lick, in Garrard County, with a second processing plant in Mercer County. 859.925.2000. I have just learned about Bluegrass Lamb & Goat from trusted friends, Blue Moon Farm owners Jean and Leo Keene. Leo and Jean grow their own crops sustainably. They have cultivated a network of support for delicious, eco-friendly food and food practices among producers, processors, restaurants and consumers.  Leo is a pioneer in central Kentucky local food distribution -- and I benefit often. Leo helps find good foods that are hard to locate, and then works out ways to get the foods and the eater together with the fewest possible food miles involved. Leo can help connect both restaurants and individuals with Bluegrass Lamb & Goat products. Call Leo at 859.328.2401 - and read on for another new local food option that involves Jean and Leo...

Buy local in bulk, with planning. Thanks to a customer who wanted to keep enjoying what Blue Moon offers at the Lexington Farmers Market from April through October each year, Blue Moon is trying out a way to provide customers substantial quantities of foods from a small network of suppliers. Pre-ordering and some waiting is required, so plan ahead. The scale and scope of products is broad, and includes Blue Moon's own products (garlic, sourdough bread, garlic scape pesto, homemade pasta, and more.) Jean says, "Blue Moon Farm represents Stone Cross Farm from Spencer County (Taylorsville) for pastured pork and beef products, handmade soaps (and around Christmas their own raw milk cheese), Colcord Farm in Bourbon County (Paris) for grass finished beef, Kenny's Farmhouse (raw milk) Cheeses from Barren County (near Bowling Green), Sunrise Bakery in Lexington for Artisan breads and pastries, plus we have our own Blue Moon products.  All meat and dairy products are A.S.H.-free (antibiotic, steroid, hormone)." A detailed list of products and prices is available. Call Leo at 859.328.2401.

When dealing with growers, producers, farmers, processors - I know you will do this anyway, but just a friendly reminder - make it worth their while. Order plenty. Share, freeze, preserve if necessary. That way, our homemade, jerry-rigged, seat-of-the-blue jean, temporary-we-hope local foods distribution "system" can be good for all of us, until a better system comes through.