By Ben Russell, West 7th grocery
I began working at Mississippi Market in January of 2011. I was new to the local/natural foods world, but apparently my 18-hour-a-week immersion was enough (in my own head) to deem myself an esteemed ambassador of organics. Early on, in my eagerness to display my prowess in the field, I was put in my place several times when my pontificating about natural foods got somewhat out of hand. Customers, co-workers, and even my sister chimed in to remind me that even though I had worked in restaurants and was eager to learn about food, this alone did not make me the Deepak Chopra of organics.
This summer, I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to earn college credit and study local foods at the same time. I interviewed people in all different areas of the community, from personal chefs to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmers. As my studies progressed, my sense of identity within the local food movement seemed to regress. I became more and more insecure about my own impact on the local food movement, because I was talking to people who were out in the world living it. What I began to realize was that I had been romanticizing my own relationship with everything loc-organic.
This became starkly apparent to me on my trip to Turnip Rock CSA in New Auburn, WI. Derek, an intern at the farm, graciously gave me the grand tour (after what was most likely a long day of making deliveries). Whether it was the beauty of the land, or the genuine passion that Derek radiated as he showed me around Turnip Rock, the experience shook me to my soul. The trip altered my perception of the local food movement. These guys were the ambassadors of organics.
Through some of these ego-smashing experiences, I have come to know that the deeper I dive into the realm of natural and organic food, the less I actually know about it. And that’s ok. Because I understand now that in order to fully appreciate what is taking place in America’s countryside, all I have to do is seek it out. The local food movement is a non-discriminatory affair, and there’s always room on the guest list for one more.
Turnip Rock is one of five CSAs that use our West 7th store as a drop site for their weekly boxes. Mississippi Market chooses to support local CSAs because they are a vital part of our local food economy.