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Eat Local this Thanksgiving Holiday

If you are a planner, you have most likely jotted down the dishes that you plan to cook and present to your family on Thanksgiving Day. Perhaps you are sticking with traditional favorites or trying something new to shake things up.

My role in the family dinner is to help procure the ingredients. Last year, I challenged myself to buy mostly local ingredients for the big meal and I plan to keep the tradition alive. Not only will I support local farmers and producers, but the ingredients will be the freshest for our very special meal. You, too, can buy local and eat local this Thanksgiving holiday.

• Attend the 12th Downtown Bloomington Annual Thanksgiving Farmers Market at Grossinger Motors Arena from 9 to 11 a.m. Nov. 17. Local farmers will provide a range of products including fruits, vegetables, herbs, dairy, pork, beef, poultry, pastries and eggs. Most people would agree that food tastes better when it is fresher. I do not have to be an expert to say that the eggs my dad gave me from his own chickens tasted better than anything I could buy in the store.

Last Thanksgiving, our table was adorned with Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, cheese, eggs and cupcakes, all from local producers.

• Buy local honey instead of using sugar. Go to a farmers' market, Green Top Grocery, Common Grounds grocery, or visit the Central Illinois Beekeeper Association on Facebook to obtain the sweet stuff locally. Honey has minerals, vitamins and is a natural energy booster. Last Thanksgiving, I found fresh local honey at a large chain store and used it to drizzle on our sweet potatoes and in our hot teas.

• Buy your breads, rolls, pies and cookies from a local bakery. Some will have seasonal specials and hours. Some will have a booth at the Thanksgiving Farmers Market. Last Thanksgiving, I went to my favorite bread store and got a seasonal savory option and their most popular dessert bread.

• Go to a local meat shop or ask your grocer if the meat has been produced locally. Last Thanksgiving, we had a local restaurant cook our turkey for us. It not only freed up the kitchen, but was smoked and delicious.

• Buy several pumpkins and canned pumpkin for the big day. A farmer in Illinois most likely grew those pumpkins that are highlighted in your decorative display and the pumpkins from which you make pie. Despite early growing concerns about disease outbreaks, Illinois has had a great year for pumpkin production.