Since discovering the wonders of PCC as a viable option for local products, we've been relying more and more on their convenience and hours. You will still find us on a weekly basis at the farmer's markets, but the convenience of popping into PCC is hard to ignore.
Granted, we are pretty dedicated locavores. We keep to our exception list (I am proud to announce that I have not had a single piece of Halloween candy, even though we have plenty awaiting trick-or-treaters), and have completely deleted normal things like Quinoa, Rice, and Chocolate from our diet.
Still, it's starting to feel...too easy.
But isn't that the goal? To show the world that the average urban couple can go local, and that it doesn't suck? Or that it won't bleed your bank account dry? I know I'm only a month in, but I'm surprised to say... it's not as hard as I expected.
Yes, the leg work involved to get us to this point was definitely time consuming. We spent the entire summer canning and planning and getting us ready for this exact moment. Since securing our meat, bean and tomato needs, everything else has actually been pretty easy.
I still bake any bread we consume, and I make all of our meals from scratch. But I've also discovered some shortcuts, so cooking isn't as time consuming as it was before. Lunch is always a challenge, as I'm still hard-pressed to find local shaved meat for sandwiches, but this is more of a hiccup than a road block, and with a little creativity, we're still eating lunch on a daily basis.
Once you add in the big PCC stores, it feels even easier. Now that we've found "local" products from big name companies, it not only feels easy, it feels......... WRONG.
For instance, yogurt and cheese. I love my local dairy farmers, Golden Glen being my favorite for milk and butter. However, I have yet to find a dairy that produces a yogurt that doesn't taste like... the barn.
In that vain, I have contacted nearly a half dozen big name yogurt companies that claim the Pacific Northwest as their stomping ground to find out where their dairy actually comes from. This search has led to some surprising discoveries.
For instance, "Greek Gods" yogurt gets most of their milk from Washington State, but they do get some of it from Wisconsin, and there is no way to tell what batch comes from what. "Cascade Fresh", the yogurt company that brags about being a local "Northwest" company, gets their dairy from a plant in Southern California.
When a savvy tipster (thanks Jen!) left me a comment that Yami was locally based, I was skeptical at first. And so I did what I always do--I called Yami directly. (It amazes me that all of these dairies answer on the first ring and are more than happy to tell you where their stuff comes from). My tipster was RIGHT...it turns out their dairy comes from a co-op, all of which comes from Washington cows. Their dairy is Organic to boot, which is a nice bonus. The best part? It doesn't taste like the farm.
This led me to start researching other big names like Tillamook (230 miles from Seattle!) . Turns out, all of their dairy comes from cows in the Tillamook Valley. In addition to being growth hormone free and getting their milk from small, family owned farms, they have stringent regulations on antibiotics. If a batch of milk shows up and has any trace of antibiotics in it, they will dispose of it, rather than put it into their product. Pretty awesome.
While I'm selfishly happy to have a few more yogurt options, I can't help but be torn. On the one hand, I really want to support big companies doing good things, especially when they are supporting small farmers. On the other hand, I feel like I'm cheating, even though these products fall within our guidelines.
And relying on PCC is both good and bad. We're still shopping at the farmer's market on a weekly basis (supporting the little guy), and getting only a few things at PCC (supporting the bigger guy). And I'm sure that my constant pestering of the PCC employees is having some impact ("where is THIS from? And this?"), because the more we demand local products, the more local products we'll see in our stores.
Even PCC has a ways to go. There are rows and rows of tea on the shelf, and none are from Washington, even though there is a local Green Tea grower here. Thanks to another tipster (thanks, Paula!), turns out there is also local popcorn to be had. It'd be pretty awesome if this was an option at most stores.
PCC is still a great resource, and it's nice to know there are options for those of us who don't have the time or need something in a pinch. It's also pretty nice to know that going local can actually be quite accessible, even for those who haven't made this year long commitment.