You might be asking why am I sharing how to support local in Idaho right now? Well, did you know September is Idaho Preferred month? What does that mean? September was proclaimed by the Governor of Idaho to be the month of celebrating the bounty of our state. To celebrate what is locally grown, raised & processed in Idaho. 2022 marks the 19th year of celebrating the fresh harvests! There is an abundance of produce being harvested around this time of year. Making it the perfect time to be buying and supporting locals in Idaho.
You might be asking yourself where to even start with shopping and supporting locals. Well, you came to the right place! I will be going over all the details to help you feel well equipped to start shopping and supporting locally.
What Is Idaho Preferred?
“Idaho Preferred® is a program to identify and promote food and agricultural products grown, raised, or processed in the Gem State. Administered by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, the program showcases the quality, diversity, and availability of Idaho food and agricultural products and helps Idaho consumers find local products.
Instituted in 2002 with funding from a USDA grant. Idaho Preferred® program has been successful in raising consumer awareness of Idaho food and agriculture products. This increased awareness has been achieved through advertising, public relations, consumer events, retail and food-service promotions, and farm-to-school education programs.
Who Makes Up Idaho Preferred?
The nearly 300 Idaho Preferred participants are local companies passionate about selling quality food and agricultural products. Local growers’, producers’, and food processors’ products must meet strict criteria to qualify to use the blue and gold label. Fresh fruits and vegetables must be grown in Idaho. Processed products must contain at least 20% locally grown ingredients, meats must be raised or processed in Idaho. Wines must be made of 95% Idaho-grown grapes.
Look for the Idaho Preferred label the next time you’re at your local grocer, farmers market, restaurant, or retail nursery. This assures that you are buying Idaho-grown or crafted products that support local farmers, ranchers, and food crafters.
Idaho is famous for its potatoes, but that is only one of over 185 different agricultural products produced in Idaho. Asparagus grows in the spring. Strawberries, Bing cherries, apricots, and raspberries ripen in the summer. Peaches, plums, pears, and corn are available in the fall. Apples, onions, dry beans, and local meats can be found just about year-round.
And that’s not everything! Idaho processors also specialize in breads, dairy products, wine, and nursery plants. Crafted foods like jams, jellies, pickled vegetables, and more. Next time you buy trees, shrubs, or flowers for your yard, or wood products for your home improvement projects, look for Idaho-grown varieties.”
Live. Eat. Local
Earlier this month I had the incredible opportunity to go on an Agriculture Food Tour with Idaho Preferred. It was an incredible opportunity to jump on a bus and make our way around the state. We visited eight different farms and locations to be able to experience all they had to offer. It was a wonderful experience to be able to meet the owners of the farms. I was able to really understand what they are growing, processing, and creating in their business. I loved being able to talk with each person individually. It gave me the opportunity to feel the passion and excitement they had for their farms.
I believe everyone would benefit from having this experience. It would create relationships within communities, it would help people know the faces behind the food they are buying. I believe this would make it so much easier for people to choose local. They would want to help that person they had the opportunity to meet. It no longer is just an item sitting on a shelf, it is a person, a family behind that product.
Simple Ways to Start Supporting Local
The Idaho Preferred Website makes it easy to start knowing what’s in season and where you can buy it. Their website is a wealth of information about all things being grown, raised, and crafted in Idaho.
Here are some of the things they offer to help you find local.
- Find Your Local Farmers Market
- Community Supported Agriculture
- U-Pick, Roadside Stands, Agritourism
- Supporting Organizations
- Buy Online
Supporting Local & Eating Seasonally
Something that most people don’t think about when considering supporting locally is the direct effect it has on their health. By supporting locals you are actually starting to eat seasonally as well. You might be asking what eating seasonally even means and why it matter. Being able to buy locally means your food is picked at the peak of ripeness which allows for max nutrients. Most likely the items were harvested that very day or maybe the day before. The freshness matters with our food, the longer a product sits, the more nutrients are lost. It also means that the item was grown naturally and not under light or unnatural environments. You also decrease your personal carbon footprint by not buying items shipped from all over the world. These items sit on trucks and on shelves for weeks before ever being purchased.
I highly recommend starting to research and understand seasonal eating because it greatly impacts our health. Our bodies know what they are craving and need in every season. It’s up to us to listen and start buying items that are meant for us to be consuming during that time. Here are some examples of seasonal eating and why we would be consuming different items during different seasons.
What Is Eating Seasonally?
- Spring – think fresh greens, peas, herbs, light and bright foods to bring us out of winter and freshen our palates.
- Summer – melons, berries, greens, tomatoes, peppers, an abundance of foods that are full of flavor, and hydrating.
- Fall – stone fruits, root veggies, potatoes, starting to see the shift to more warming, grounding foods.
- Winter – squash, pumpkins, hearty veggies, onions, garlic, kale, warming, heavy foods to fill ourselves up.
Find the full printout and interactive graph that Idaho Preferred has created. This page was created to easily show you what is in season each month. Taking the guessing game out of what is in season allows you to map out your meals accordingly.
I know that it can feel overwhelming to shift how you have always shopped. It can be so convenient and easy to shop at large grocery stores or order from Costco. I highly recommend starting small so that your changes can be sustainable and enjoyable.
Maybe look up your local farmer’s market and check it out on a Saturday with friends. Or find a local grocery store selling locally produced items and try grocery shopping there one time. Find what works for you and your schedule. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing mentality. You really can just slowly switch out your products to ones that are made in your area. It will take some time but be gentle with yourself and know that you are doing good in your community. Every dollar spent on local items keeps it within the community and helps local farmers, purveyors, and crafters stay in business. You should be proud of every step you take to start supporting locally.
Check Out These Reels To Further Understand Idaho Preferred
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I love eating seasonally and the tour sounds like a great time! How amazing that you got to meet your local farmers and see where your food comes from!