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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local foods offer a cornucopia of fresh Thanksgiving options

Beets, parsnip, squash and apples

Being thankful for our families has a new meaning this year, and the feast should be spectacular. Let’s add a sometimes-missing ingredient this year: the love that a local grower, baker, or cook puts into their product.

My role in the Thanksgiving meal is to procure ingredients and I challenge myself to buy mostly fresh local ingredients for the big meal.

Now approaching my fourth year, buying local has become a new Thanksgiving tradition. My sister, the cook, is always inspired by what I find, and I feel like I am doing something extra special for the family.

In past years, we have feasted on local sweet potatoes, beets, onions, leafy greens, brussels sprouts, carrots, cheese, honey, eggs, and herbs. We have had the most divine cupcakes and artisan breads, and we have even had local restaurants cook our turkey.

How to Buy and Eat Local for Thanksgiving

Supporting regional food providers is good for you and your community. It encourages economic growth, benefits the environment and promotes a safer food supply.

Locally grown foods also have more nutrients since they have a shorter time between being harvested and reaching the consumer. Produce grown locally travels an average of 56 miles to market while conventionally grown food travels 1,494 miles, according to a 2003 Iowa State University study.

  1. Is there a farmers market open in your area? Bloomington will have its 14th Annual Thanksgiving Market the Saturday before. Local farmers will provide a range of products including fruits, vegetables, herbs, pork, beef, poultry, popcorn, pastries and eggs. These local farmers are bringing everything but the turkey for your holiday table. Full details, including COVID-19 safety guidelines, are listed below. 
  2. Pumpkin is king in Illinois. Whether you buy pumpkins for decorations, canned pumpkin or a premade pie for the big day, it's likely from Illinois. About 90% to 95% of the processed pumpkins in the U.S. are grown in Illinois.
  3. Check out a locally owned bakery for breads, rolls, pies and cookies. Leave the baking to the professionals. Local bakeries often have seasonal specials and hours.
  4. Use honey instead of sugar. Honey has minerals, vitamins and is a natural energy booster. Local honey is available at farmer's markets, natural food stores or visit the Central Illinois Beekeeper Association Facebook page or a website such as Local Honey Finder to track down the sweet stuff locally. Check out how to substitute honey for sugar in a recipe from University of Missouri Extension
  5. The bird is the word: It's likely too late to track down a locally-sourced turkey or ham this year, but next summer ask around at your local farmers market about ordering a locally raised bird in advance. 
  6. Ask about no contact options: Market Wagon is an online farmer’s market linking Central Illinois farmers with customers. This online farmer’s market allows customers to place orders for items like fresh vegetables, pumpkins, apples, meats, and fresh-baked pies and cookies from local vendors. The items are delivered to your door for a small fee.

Downtown Bloomington Farmer’s Market 14th Annual Thanksgiving Market

9 a.m. to 1 p.m. | November 21, 2020 | Grossinger Motors Arena, Bloomington

COVID guidelines limit the market’s capacity, so only one person is allowed per household. Masks are required, shoppers must maintain a minimum distance from each other and there is limited products handling. But check their Facebook page for any last-minute changes.

  • Allowed: Empty shopping bags, a small clutch or wristlet, items in a clear bag, diaper bags (with a child 3 and under), and bags carrying medically necessary items will be allowed after a visual inspection done by security, a wire cart to carry your bags and purchases.
  • Not allowed: regular purses, backpacks, suitcases or carry-on bags.