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Years ago when my husband and I first watch Food Inc. we laughed about finding local food here in Minot, ND, aka the middle of nowhere. Mmm, we could gorge ourselves on sunflower seeds, soybeans (which I refuse to eat) and wheat (which I’m allergic too). While cattle ranches are plentiful, I doubted I’d ever find one that was organic and strictly grassfed. I also had a sense that organic wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms.
The grocery stores had a very limited supply of organic that was outrageously priced (in my cheapskate opinion). There was a tiny health food store that lived a very short life. I could imagine running an independent grocery store in the middle of nowhere would be difficult. I visited it once but couldn’t afford the prices. And I don’t blame them. It was impossible for them to offer worthwhile prices and keep the doors open at the same time.
In the summer I was delighted to see they had farmers market but it started at 9am and with 3 young children, it was impossible for me to get there before all the good stuff was sold out. At this I had almost resigned myself to eating conventional food since there was no alternative in sight.
Then a friend forwarded me an email for an organic CSA. A CSA?! In Minot? CSA stands for community supported agriculture. This is where a farm offers shares to people in the area. People buy a full or half share and the farmers divide the bounty up between all the share holders and deliver fresh produce daily during the entire growing season. Maybe if there was one organic farm, there could be others as well. I met Ilene co-owner of North Star Farm at the Pride of Dakota fair where she held a booth with Catherine’s for Lamb, an organic lamb provider! I kept asking around finding more and more organic farmers and ranchers and slowly compiled a list that supplied most of my needs.
Then I thought, why not share this list with everyone? It took so long for me to find everyone, I’d hate for others to have to come to Minot and think there was nothing here when in fact there is quite a thriving community of organic everything (in fact North Dakota is #2 in the US for most organic land). Thus was born Real Food Minot on Facebook. I keep a growing list of the areas farmers who offer organic (certified or not) produce, meat and even fresh farm milk as well as available buying clubs and coops from places like Azure Standard, Frontier Coop and Green Polka Dot Box. Spun off from that we have a group called Healthy Lifestyles of Minot where like-minded health food nuts gather to share thoughts, articles, recipes and to ask questions.
While it is still difficult to eat entirely organic and local all year round, with a little planning and freezer space, it’s not impossible. Things like dairy products, especially grassfed and raw, I have not found local yet so these items are ordered through Azure. For pantry items, there are a lot of local grains (even gluten free) available but organic grains (especially organic gluten free mixes) are a little trickier to find. These I usually order through Azure or Green Polka Dot Box. Most meat farmers, especially poultry, prefer that people pre-order so they can plan ahead. So instead of buying one chicken a week, I have 20 chickens in my freezer that will hopefully last until the next butchering period. I might need to get a new freezer to house the pig I have on order.
When we first moved here and I found there was no Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s stores, I was a little disappointed. But now that I get the majority of my food straight from the source, cutting out the middle man, I find I save money and make new friends. I love knowing exactly where my food comes from.
If you find yourself in the middle of nowhere with no local organic food in sight, the situation might not be as bad as you fear.
#1. Ask around.
#2. If there is a farmers market, check it out and ask around there for other sources. There is a wealth of information to be found at a farmers market.
#3. Check out www.westonaprice.org and find a chapter leader near you. If there isn’t one in your town, find the closest town and talk to that chapter leader. They might have suggestions for you.
#4 Take a drive in the county and look for signs advertising eggs and vegetables.
#5 Call Azure Standard and get hooked up with a local drop point. The people in the group might be able to direct to more local resources.
#6 Keep asking around. Eventually you’ll find the right person in the know.
Here is an example of a 99.9% local and mostly organic meal, all from within a 100 miles of my house. We had this beef stew last night. The only thing not organic is the gluten free flour used to thicken it and the salt is not from North Dakota .
North Dakota Grown Beef Stew
- 1/4 cup lard (rendered from pork from Bartlett Farm)
- 1.5 lb beef stew meat (from Ruso Ranch)
- 1/2 cup flour (I used Premium Gold, Flax and Whole Grain Gluten Free Flour from ND)
- 2 organic yellow onions, sliced (North Star Farm)
- 2 quarts beef stock (made from beef bones from Ruso Ranch)
- 4 organic carrots, chopped (North Star Farm and a purple carrot from the farmers market)
- 5 organic potatoes, diced (North Star Farm)
- 2 organic celery stalks, chopped (yes, even celery from North Star Farm)
- a few sprigs of thyme (Garden Dwellers Herb Farm)
- a few sprigs of marjoram (Garden Dweller Herb Farms)
- sea salt to taste
Toss beef with flour. In a medium sized stock pot (1 gallon should suffice), melt lard. Saute onions over medium heat until soft, add beef and saute until seared on the outside. Slowly pour in beef stock, mixing as you pour. Bring to a slow boil and add carrots, potatoes, celery and herbs. Turn down to a simmer and cook until vegetables are soft, about 30-45 mins. Add salt to taste.