Give thanks for our farmers

Celebrating a year’s crops with a Thanksgiving feast has been a tradition for more than 400 years.

This past summer, Illinois residents went to farmers markets despite pandemic conditions as America continues to demand locally sourced vegetables and increased access to healthy food.

This Thanksgiving will be no different as people rely more on their local farmers to bring the farm to the table.

The University of Illinois Extension encourages everyone to take the Local Thanksgiving Challenge and source some or all their Thanksgiving meal locally, improving quality of the meal while supporting our farmers.

Locally grown food isn’t shipped thousands of miles, which reduces the carbon footprint, supports our local farmers and offers tastier, more nutritious food.

When food doesn’t have to travel far, it can be picked ripe and eaten soon after harvest, retaining more nutrients and flavor than food picked unripe and stored for a longer period.

In the Allsup family’s fourth year of taking the Local Thanksgiving Challenge, it has become a tradition to source the entire meal locally. My vegetarian family is excited to see all the fresh vegetables and the possibilities for delectable dishes.

Up for a local Thanksgiving challenge? Here are some ideas:

  • Visit your local farmers market. Available Thanksgiving meal ingredients include sweet potatoes, squash, beets, onions, leafy greens, brussels sprouts, carrots, pumpkins, garlic, honey, meats, cheese, eggs and apples.
  • Local flower growers will feature some of their flowers in dried bouquets and wreaths.
  • Buy local cottage goods like popcorn, jams, jellies, salsas and baked goods.

For a list of farmers markets, go online, ilfma.org/find-a-market.

  • Consider a local family farm for your turkey.
  • Locally owned bakeries are a great source for breads, rolls, pies and cookies.
  • Don’t forget local pumpkins for pies and holiday decorations. Pumpkin towers created with flat stacker pumpkins add instant holiday charm.
  • Buy local honey.

Transitioning from a traditional store-bought Thanksgiving meal to a locally sourced one can be a challenge.

If you cannot buy the entire menu locally, start small and choose options that work best for you. A pumpkin centerpiece or a jar of local of honey gives thanks to the farmers and producers in your community this holiday season.

For University of Illinois Extension in Livingston, McLean, and Woodford counties, Kelly Allsup is the horticulture educator, Jenna Smith is the nutrition and wellness educator and Nick Frillman is the local food systems and small farms educator.