Staying fresh, buying local

Sarah Steimer

On state Route 59, past the blossoming ugliness of a Super Wal-Mart, through a few orange and white construction barrels, and nestled next to an old warehouse, I found the most delicious corn I’ve ever tasted. It was bread and butter corn (the speckled white and yellow kind), and I didn’t even need to use salt.

Right next to this corn I found fresh, plump tomatoes, gorgeous burgundy onions and a vampire-style rope of garlic.

I found all of these edibles at a food stand on state Route 59. Local foods are the best foods; local foods are soul foods.

There’s something about a handful of fresh herbs, with a little bit of dirt still on the leaves. And perhaps it’s only so good because you can’t get it at a 24-hour Giant Eagle, because you have to make a special trip to the farmer’s market that only appears one day each week for just a few hours.

Or are the flavors so bold because as you hand the man or woman (or child) behind the traveling stand $5, you know 100 percent will stay in their pocket? Not a fraction goes to the stockholder, nor the CEO somewhere in an office. You are staring he who fully profits right in the face. You’re supporting the local economy and your neighbors.

Maybe the texture is so divine because purchasing a locally grown zucchini means you aren’t supporting the 18-wheelers that bring truckloads of produce by pumping black exhaust into the air. It’s easier to breath in more ways than one if you stop at a food stand on the way home from your job.

And you have more energy because it’s legitimately healthier for you! It beats those nutrition bars, the tight little bricks packaged with 80 percent preservatives and 20 percent taste (if you’re lucky).

Now, we all must go to the grocery store. To be fair, we are college students whose limited funds don’t allow us to buy fresh mozzarella (Food Club has never failed me much, just as Natural Light has never failed others). But surprisingly enough, many locally produced foods don’t cost more than what you’d find at Acme. Sometimes local foods cost less because they had fewer miles to travel.

My mom and I loved going to farmer’s markets over the summer. Usually on those days, we’d make dinner out of the food we bought at the markets – combined with what we may have bought at Aldi’s. There’s nothing wrong with mixing local with cheap, it’s just important to try and replace as much as possible with what can be found locally.

Local foods have actually grown so much that Slow Food USA, a group supporting food sustainability, put together a festival over Labor Day weekend in San Francisco. Slow Food’s philosophy is that food is about much more than just cooking and eating. The festival was meant to show people where their food comes from, why slow food is better than store-bought snacks and the absolute importance of humans seeing the process through from start to finish.

Although eating local and eating organic is sometimes perceived to be trendy (the word “locavores” has been coined to describe those who buy local food or grow their own), it should not be a fading trend. With so many positive outcomes of growing, buying and eating local – why should it be a fad that merely comes and goes?

Kent is in a fantastic area for eating local. The town is surrounded by farms, the Kent Natural Foods Co-op sits right downtown, farmers’ stands dot the roadway and a farmer’s market appears on the corner of Summit and Franklin every Saturday (through October) from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Just take a look – some will even let you take a bite – to see if you like it. Fall is snapping at our heels, it’s a perfect time of year to grab what the growers are knocking off the branches and stocks in their yards. Then go online, check out Web sites like for recipe ideas. Invent your own.

Happy harvest season, try something fresh – literally.

Sarah Steimer is a junior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].