Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Sources of Real Local Food

I think it's time for an edit on this post.  Many of my sources are the same but I need to add a few as well.  If you know of a great source for real food that I haven't found yet, please let me know in the comments.  

If you don't live in Georgia, you will probably not find this post super helpful.  However, I hope the heart of it is inspiring and that you decide to embark on your own quest for local sources of real food.  Check out these websites to help you in your search:

When I first set out to try to source my family’s groceries locally, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into.  I had just read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and I was in love with the idea of Polyface Farm as portrayed in that book (if you have not read it, do so as soon as possible).  There were so many reasons why I no longer wanted to feed myself and my family from Kroger (or even Whole Foods) but the task of figuring out where our meals might come from instead was a little daunting. 
Over the course of the last 18 months or so, I have developed the following list of sources.  Let me say up front that this list is fluid.  I'm always talking to people, searching the internet, and keeping my eyes peeled for small local producers of clean, whole food.  There are other sources that I no longer buy from, as well, for various reasons. 
Marietta Farmers Market:  This is where I started in my search for real, local food.  It was the first market I went to and I really feel like I hit the jackpot.  Local farmers and food vendors come on Saturdays from 9 until noon and set up stalls right in the town square.  It's a busy, bustling place through the growing season and in the winter it's much smaller but still has some great vendors.  Whenever I see a vendor that I am interested in, I try to ask questions and establish a relationship.  I want them to know me and I want to know them.  This market is a perfect setting for that.  The market is now open through the winter and even though it is smaller, I can still manage to do a good portion of my grocery shopping there every week.
Carlton Farms: This dairy farm is operated by an extended family out in Rockmart.  They produce beautiful raw milk (labeled “pet milk” in accordance with Ga law) from Jersey cows.  Chad Carlton has a refrigerated truck that he drives around the metro Atlanta area on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  He sells milk, cream, eggs, cheese, meat, nuts, honey, and produce.  The items that don’t come directly from Carlton Farms he sources from other farms in the area.  I fill out his online order form every Tuesday and meet him on Thursday afternoons behind the Mt. Paran Church on Allgood Rd in Marietta.  He has many other drop-off points listed on his website.
Jackson Lowe Farm : I met Adam and Mecca Lowe at the Marietta Market, too.  When you talk to the farmers and buy their produce, you start to get a sense of who you really want to give your money to.  I really like to give my money to the Lowes.  They're a young couple who are farming family land and are determined to do it the right way.  They grow a lot of different vegetables, some of which I never cooked or ate before.  They focus on lots of greens and “southern” type veggies. Every year I buy a share of their harvest up front.  Often referred to as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), this arrangement allows the farmer to judge the demand for his produce and plan accordingly.  The wonderful thing about buying a farm share is that every week you get a big box of produce.  The challenging thing about buying a farm share is that every week you get a big box of produce.  You don't get to pick and choose which veggies you want and you often get more than you expected.  I have loved and struggled with my CSA box for the last two years.  That weekly box has forced me to feed my family more veg, to learn to preserve the abundance, and to cook unfamiliar vegetables.  Now I can cook kohlrabi, rutabaga, and braising greens.  In the summer I can tomatoes and in the fall I ferment cabbage.  It is an amazing experience that I intend to repeat this year.
Melody Lane Co-Op: This buying co-op sources real food from local farms and from the internet.  They do a weekly group buy from Carlton Farms and farm shares from Moss Hill Farm.  By participating in their group buys on the internet and from other producers I save shipping, hassle, and leg work.  I buy wild Alaskan salmon, high quality olive oil, coconut products, cod liver oil...and the list goes on.
Mother Earth Meats:  Melody Lane Co-op buys from this farmer in Tennessee every 3 months or so.    He drives his truck to Atlanta and I buy chicken, beef, and pork when my freezer is running low.  My favorite thing to buy from him is his “Druck’s Raw Cheddar”.  It’s fabulous.  I buy pounds of the stuff and put it in my freezer. 
Burns Best Farm:  This is another small farmer I met at the Marietta Market.  Mike is an IT guy that decided to chuck corporate life and start a farm.  His farm is up in Ringgold and he and his wife raise pork, beef, chickens (broilers and layers) and produce.  Their eggs have the brightest yolks and the best flavor of any that I have had.  My husband can tell instantly when I buy eggs from someone else—and he always complains.  For the last two years I have bought a half cow from them.  It was a huge leap that I really agonized over but it turned out to be a great deal.  The beef is delicious and we are able to get it butchered to my specifications.  Mike doesn’t update his webpage very often but you can find them on Facebook.  Denise lets me know when she is coming down to our area and will bring me eggs and whole chickens if I need them.  They recently started a pork and chicken CSA (you preorder the animals and they raise and process them for you).
Pine Street Market:  This is a local charcuterie that I found at the Marietta Market, although you can also buy from their store in Atlanta or online.  PSM uses pastured, humane pork from Gum Creek Farm and old world techniques to make the best cured meats I have found. Honestly, I won't buy bacon from anyone else anymore.  My son is addicted to PSM kielbasa and this is where I get my Easter ham.  This website is a great place to start when you are looking for local food in Georgia. 

One thing that I have learned about sourcing local food is that it is a very much like a treasure hunt.  Week to week and month to month, it is a process and an adventure.  I don’t buy the same things from the same place every time.  I am always thinking about what I want my family to eat and what is available from which source.  Because our food comes from small scale, artisanal producers, it is usually not uniform, very rarely shrink wrapped, and the appearance and flavors often change.  I am completely happy with that.  My connection and participation in the economy and ecology of rural Northern Georgia is reaffirmed with my grocery budget and the meals I serve my family. 


  1. Awesome! I am convinced about the meat and dairy for sure! Still not certain about the fermented dairy, yet, but working on it.