Produce travels from near and far

 For many people today it is important to know where their food comes from. Produce is not only transported across thousands of miles in the U.S. to reach our grocery stores, but it is increasingly flown in from countries around the globe.

Along with the growing locavore movement in America, where consumers buy local produce directly from the farmers, it is becoming increasingly important for consumers to know where the origin of the food they purchase.

Freshman pre-pharmacy major Holly Polak believes that it’s important that people are aware of where their food comes from.

“Back home in Sioux Falls [my family has] a garden, so a lot of our vegetables that my family and I would eat would come from our garden,” Polak said. “Most of our beef came from my grandparents who run a cattle farm.”

Taylor Steiger, a junior double majoring in graphic design and entrepreneurial studies, also gets her food from family and friends.

“I get stuff from home usually,” Steiger said. “I get vegetables from home since I’m from a farm.”

In addition to the food from home, Steiger also shops at Walmart for her groceries because it’s cheaper.

“I go to Walmart because I’m on a college budget,” Steiger said. “It would be nice to go to farmers markets and stuff, but not when you’re on a college budget.”

Both students believe that the movement towards locally grown food will be beneficial for most.

“It should probably be something we work on changing. Even local farmers who don’t have large-scale farms, you could work with them and do something with their crops,” Polak said. “We should try to be more aware of buying local and how it would benefit farmers.”

As a student, Polak also buys most of her food from Walmart, but believes that Hy- Vee has a better selection of fruits and vegetables.

Hy-Vee, a regional grocery store chain, is working with the increased demand for locally-grown produce.

Curt Osmaski, store director of the Brookings Hy-Vee, said that Hy-Vee strives to become a good partner in the community and for their customers, and part of being a good partner is addressing the demands of customers for locally grown food.

“We try to buy as many products that are available in town. I don’t know of a local product that is offered that we don’t carry,” Osmanski said. “But that has just continued to increase as far as product goes, as far as the proportion of locally grown products, is just growing. When anybody approaches about anything we just jump on board with it.”

Most of the meat sold by Hy- Vee is processed in Sioux City, Iowa by Tyson from cattle raised in the upper Midwest. Hy-Vee buys milk from Land O’Lakes in Sioux Falls, honey from Luverne, Minn., Bizzy Lizzy products and SDSU Ice Cream.

In addition to these local products, the Brookings Hy- Vee works with many local farms and organizations for produce.

A well-known farm that Hy-Vee works with is Jensen Farms located just outside of Brookings. From Jensen Sweet Corn and Produce they receive popular choices such as cucumbers, squash and beans while they are in season. Hy-Vee also works with Gunderson’s Farms outside of Brookings for local produce, Dakota Layers based out of Flandreau, S.D. for eggs and a hydroponic farm in Minnesota for a number of their tomatoes.

“A lot of produce is local, but it depends on what it is. My general definition of local is anything grown in the upper Midwest, within a state or two of South Dakota would be considered local to me,” Osmanski said. “We buy basically everything that Jensen Farms sells. When it is in season, we buy it locally.”

With a demand of the same food bought all year round, Hy-Vee must buy from other places throughout the U.S., as well as buying food internationally.

“If you want to have strawberries year round, you’re going to have to get strawberries from California. Pretty much all strawberries that you will get will be from California,” Osmanski said.

Early sweet corn is purchased from Missouri or Nebraska, which is also a provider for many melons sold at Hy- Vee. Although both of these areas require transportation by semi-truck over several hundred miles, Osmanski considers this local.

“Produce comes from all over the country; it comes from all over the world now,” Osmanski said. “That’s the best we can do within our area, our trade area for product,” Osmanski said, referring to how much locally-grown product they sell versus across the nation.

“The only time you will see things come in internationally is when it’s not available in America,” Osmanski said. “Otherwise, pretty much you’ll see stuff grown in the United States. Except for bananas, bananas are all brought in from other countries.”

But there is still a demand for locally grown food that can be seen in the Brookings community.

The Brookings Farmers Market is open in town on Wednesday evenings from 3 to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. The farmers market is open from May to October.

It is becoming more popular for people to buy locally grown food to support local farmers and have a smaller environmental impact as well as be aware of where their food comes from.