Local Food Gains a Following in Washtenaw County

Food is indeed one of life’s greatest pleasures; more than just a necessity, meals have set the scene for everything from family bonding to diplomatic bargaining throughout history. Unfortunately, in today’s overscheduled society, convenience meals and fast food become practical defaults, saving time while stripping us of both nutrition and the opportunity to savor delicious, home-cooked creations. While our European counterparts strive to protect the sanctity of mealtimes (and the associated interaction with friends and family), many Americans are still stuck in the rut of eating on the go –- of treating our bodies’ nourishment as yet another task on the to-do list instead of an important social and cultural ritual.

However, the recent movement toward handcrafted, locally-produced food may be sending us back in the right direction, as many food-based startups commit to both growing their businesses and engaging and reinvigorating the communities around them. Washtenaw County in particular is home to a number of burgeoning food-trepreneurs selling everything from artisan cheeses to free-range meats while attracting local citizens to educational workshops, farm tours, and seasonal events. These innovators also partner with one another to help customers understand the origins of their food and build relationships with other consumers, resulting in a strong following for the movement itself instead of a single brand or company. Communal resources like Chelsea Community Kitchen, Washtenaw Food Hub and Tilian Farm Development Center provide direct assistance to the entrepreneurs themselves, rallying local support and spurring development of countless new businesses. Read on to learn more about some of the local pioneers infusing Washtenaw County with fresh flavors and ideas!

Ann Arbor’s own The Brinery produces elaborate sauerkraut concoctions with quirky names like “Stimulus Package” and “Rust Belt,” as well as pickles, hot sauces, and tempeh. If their delicious offerings arouse your inner fermentation enthusiast, fear not – they also offer beginner courses on making your own sauerkraut, and workshops on other brined goodies like kimchi and kefir for advanced fermenters.

Chelsea’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) powerhouse Tantré Farm offers a variety of share options, including Thanksgiving, Winter Solstice and Midwinter Morning’s Dream boxes to celebrate the comfort-food-ready produce of the cooler months. All CSA boxes include an assortment of Tantré’s fresh veggies and other hand-selected surprises from local food producers. Events sponsored by the farm include agricultural workdays, educational courses in the summer, and interactive tours for kids and kids at heart. (NOTE: See “Farm Fresh” on the CCK website for other local CSAs and farms.)

White Lotus Farm is a one-stop shop for everything from produce to artisan cheeses, and grants extra perks to CSA customers, such as pesto and salsas made with herbs and veggies from the farm. Customers can even purchase a bread-only CSA share, which buys them a delicious baker’s-choice loaf every week from May through October. White Lotus also hosts art events, farm dinners, and tours and tastings for those hungry for knowledge or a delicious farm-to-table meal.

Locavorious is a preserved-produce CSA that distributes food during the sparse winter months when most farm CSAs are in seasonal hibernation. The goods include fruits and vegetables from local growers (a majority within 100 miles of Ann Arbor), which are picked, packed, and frozen during the summer and offered to members once the weather turns cold. Locavorious also sponsors and participates in educational and charity events, and engages with consumers year-round via blog posts and articles.

With the abundance of vegetable-laden CSAs in the area, meat lovers will appreciate Zatkovich Pastures’ focus on selling high-quality grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chickens and free-range organic eggs. Zatkovich’s owners also provide educational farm tours to groups and organizations, and give consumers a glimpse of farm life through articles, pictures and updates on their Facebook page.

Thanks to Holly Ellis for this submission.

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