Am I the Ant or the Grasshopper?
As I prepared to eat locally all winter, I couldn’t help think about the old Aesop fable, The Ant and the Grasshopper. Do you recall the story? Per Wikipedia, “The fable concerns a grasshopper that has spent the summer singing while the ant worked to store up food for winter. When that season arrives, the grasshopper finds itself dying of hunger and begs the ant for food. However, the ant rebukes its idleness and tells it to dance the winter away.”
All possible political and moral messages aside, I had to wonder. With my late start on this local eating adventure, would I ultimately end up like the grasshopper and run out of local food? And what other local food would be available then?
Well, I am happy to say that, this weekend, I did a systematic study of the Milwaukee Winter’s Farmers Market. And I’m pretty sure I could survive even with no stores! Here is the results (not comprehensive) of my survey. Note that vendors vary from week to week and their stored produce supplies will decline through the winter. Hopefully greenhouse lettuce and spinach rebound in that same time frame!
Meat and Eggs
There were at least three vendors selling frozen local meats. I found beef, pork, chicken as well as some processed items like (really good) sausages. I buy all my meats off the farm (every year, not just this one), but well… everyone doesn’t own multiple freezers.
There were also multiple egg vendors and while not there this week, even a fish vendor (Rushing Waters) who I’ve seen in the past.
Most of the vegetables in the market are the same ones that I have left from my CSAs and fall collecting. But I am getting low on potatoes and then there is salad. I miss salad more than sugar or chocolate. Fortunately there are a couple vendors with salad greens and spinach, though the spinach sold out in exactly 12 minutes!
And an enterprising farmer froze sweet corn, which allowed me to expand my soup repertoire, since my frozen corn supplies are pretty much exhausted.
Fruit and Mushrooms
Fruit is probably the weakest area (which isn’t too bad because I have always frozen a lot over winter and have a good supply). Fresh eating here means apples or apple cider, and there were aronia berry products like juice and frozen berries.
If it’s any compensation, there are beautiful locally grown mushrooms!
Not surprising in Wisconsin, the Market boasts a number of cheese sellers, including one (LaClare Farms) that has received some serious honors for cheese-making. There is also goat milk yogurt (every other week) and butter, but no milk.
I am guessing that is partly due to the prohibition on the sale of raw milk here, but it’s kind of ironic in America’s dairyland.
Pasta, Bread & Grain
There were a couple bread sellers, one of whom confirmed they use (mostly) local wheat. Also pasta (ditto on mostly local wheat) and organic oatmeal. In other weeks, I have bought flour, though that was not available today. No local rice, but perhaps next year, since it is newly available.
Spices & Sweeteners
No one need do without local hot sauce and there was both honey and maple syrup. Once a month there is also hickory syrup (along with hickory nuts). Everything I use now except sorghum.
Local Canned Goods
There are also plenty of local canned goods and other processed foods. So if you need local convenience food, you can always open a jar of local pasta sauce or warm up some soup.
It was pretty exciting when I realized the full extent of the local bounty that is here. I think I’d have panicked a lot less last fall had I realized what was readily available.
And what does this mean for the story of Ant and the Grasshopper today? It means they would both survive. And hopefully, with enough of us eating locally, the same is true for all the wonderful sellers here.
For a list of the Milwaukee Winter Farmer’s Market Vendors, see here.