If you are a planner, you have most likely jotted down the creations that you plan to cook and present to your family on Thanksgiving Day. Perhaps you are sticking with traditional favorites or trying something new to shake things up. My sister, the planner in our family, has been a vegetarian for a year now and is planning a vegetarian Thanksgiving to the dismay of my very traditional mother.

My role in the family dinner is to help procure the ingredients. This year I am challenging myself to buy mostly local ingredients for the big meal. Not only will I be support local farmers and producers but the ingredients will be the freshest for our very special meal. These are the steps so you, too, can buy local and eat local this Thanksgiving holiday.

  • Attend the Thanksgiving Farmers Market at the Grossinger Motors Arena on Nov. 18 from 10 a.m. to noon, where local farmers will provide a range of products from fruits, vegetables, herbs, dairy, pork, beef, poultry and eggs. For a list of vendors, visit http://downtownbloomington.org/farmers-market/vendor-directory/ and check out their websites, or call to ask about availability of your favorite ingredients or alternate times to pick up ingredients.
  • Buy local honey instead of using sugar. Go to http://www.bees-on-the-net.com/illinois-swarm-removal/ to obtain the sweet stuff locally. Honey has minerals, vitamins and is a natural energy booster. The sugar content in honey converts to energy and does not convert to fat as easily as processed sugar. Honey boosts the immune system, too.
  • Buy your breads, rolls, pies and cookies from one of the local bakeries. Some will have seasonal specials and hours.
  • Go to a local meat shop or ask your grocer if the meat has been produced locally in Illinois. Try cooking an alternate meat for the big day.
  • Look to the farmer’s market vendor directory to get local cheese and fresh eggs. Most people would agree that sustainably raised foods taste better. I do not have to be an expert to say that the eggs my dad gave me from his own chickens tasted better than anything I could buy in the store.
  • Buy several pumpkins or canned pumpkin for your celebration. A farmer in Illinois most likely grew those pumpkins that are highlighted in your decorative display and the pumpkins from which you make pie. Despite early growing concerns about disease outbreaks, Illinois has had a great year for pumpkin production.

Kelly Allsup is the University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator in Livingston, McLean and Woodford counties.

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