The vast majority of chicken we purchase and consume in the United States is from a breed known as the Cornish Cross. The hybrid was first developed after World War II, carefully selected for the trait that has come to define it — its phenomenal rate of growth. Most Cornish Cross birds we eat are slaughtered at five to seven weeks of age. This rapid growth rate, combined with the disproportionate amount of white meat the bird produces, is precisely why the Cornish Cross is so ubiquitous. It dominates grocery store coolers, restaurant menus, and poultry barns across the country.
Despite the economic advantages of the Cornish Cross, a butcher shop in Grand Rapids is working to bring customers something different. Husband-and-wife team Matt Smith and Cyndi Esch opened Louise Earl Butcher in January of 2012. Louise Earl is a full-service butcher shop that sells grass-fed and finished beef, heritage pork, and pastured lamb and chicken, alongside a variety of dry goods and specialty products. Smith and Esch are lifelong residents of Grand Rapids that first met working in the food and beverage industry in the 90’s, and have spent their time since building a community around food.
For the last 40 years, Edson Farms Natural Food Store has served Traverse City’s natural food needs. Now the store is bigger than ever with their recent expansion project. Their increased deli and local produce section contributes to their mission of supporting their community.
“With the expansion of product offerings and a more navigable store, we are a more viable option for shoppers looking for healthy food and quality supplements,” said Jessica Edson, owner of Edson Farms. “We are better able to serve the growing number of people in Traverse City looking for a full service health food store.”
Long-time Milan, Michigan farmers, Vicki and Tom Zilke, know how to grow good food. Turns out, they also know how to cook. Since June 2018 when Zilke Farm Kitchen opened for business, Vicki has been creating simple home-cooked meal kits and prepared food in Milan’s new retail space.
Walking through one of the six Tom’s Food Markets locations in Northwest Michigan, you will find the produce section is piled high with best of the season. During the harvest season, displays are piled high with sweet corn, pints of sweet cherries, bushels of Bardenhagen Farms apples, and local squashes. However, Tom’s Food Markets is proudly dedicated to supporting local producers all year long, not just during the peak of summer.
In 1946, Tom and Eva Deering founded Deering’s Market on 11th St in Traverse City. Originally, it served as a small corner market specializing in meat products near downtown. Fifteen years later, in 1961, Tom’s Food Market’s first full sized grocery store was built on the west side of town. Since then, Tom’s Food Markets has grown into six full size grocery stores throughout the region. Despite their expansion, Tom’s has continued its focus on supporting the Traverse City area community.
Michigan winters, particularly those here in the UP region, don’t allow for much production. Even those individuals who have been able to bridge the gap with season extension find themselves unable to do much in the blistering months of January and February. So, what are our local farmers up to at times like these? Catching up on the Netflix binging they missed? Creating sleep patterns that almost replicate those of hibernation? Read books by the fire, hot chocolate in hand?
Looking for a way to shop local this holiday season? Check out our holiday gift guide and support Michigan producers and growers this season.
During this time of year, The Local Grocer is a squash wonderland!
Community can often be a word people just toss around, but when the community literally owns your business, there is no taking it lightly. Oryana Community Co-op was an idea devised on the back porch of a home in Traverse City. It came from a small group of passionate community members looking to start a buying club and have control over where their food came from. That buying club started in 1973, and is now a 10,000 square foot, $17 million-a-year business that still lives by the founding principles of quality, accountability, sustainability, and localism.