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Family takes on one-month, local foods challenge

Susie Lang, right, and her family are committed to eating only locally-produced foods from Tuesday until July 15. The challenge is part of an effort to promote more local foods production and the economic benefits it offers. Lang, her husband Andy and son Elliot started out by buying local foods from Sherry Kenney at the Hector farmer's market on Wednesday afternoon. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny

OLIVIA -- Someday, Susie Lang's name might be mentioned in the company of Julia Child and Julie Powell.

She intends to make her mark by mastering the art of Renville County cooking, just like the two women whose adventures in French cooking are chronicled in their memoirs and celebrated in the popular movie "Julie & Julia.''

"It's going to be interesting,'' said Lang as she, husband Andy, and 2½-year-old son Elliot purchased fresh garden produce from Sherry Kenney at the farmers market Wednesday in Hector.

The Lang family has committed itself to eating only locally grown foods for a full month, starting Tuesday. The preference will be for foods raised in Renville County, but the Langs will also buy local foods from outside of the county as needed.

Lang will post accounts about her adventure on Twitter and Facebook as well as the website of the Renville County Housing and Redevelopment Authority/Economic Development Agency.

She is a development assistant with the office, and that role had much to do with this challenge. Members of the organization's Agriculture and Renewable Energy Committee were tossing around ideas on how to promote more local food production in the county, she said.

A host of studies suggest that rural areas would realize millions of dollars in additional income -- and create lots of jobs -- if they produced more of the foods now being transported from places hundreds and thousands of miles away.

"I don't know how it happened,'' said Lang. The conversation turned to the importance of building a market for local foods by introducing more people to what's available and teaching the art of cooking local foods, in the same way Julia Child and Julie Powell challenged themselves to learn the art of preparing French cuisine.

Someone suggested: "Susie, why don't you and your family do that,'' she said.

Husband Andy said he is all for it. He's well aware that fresh food tastes better and offers more nutritional value than processed foods or those that have sat in trucks and on warehouse shelves for days.

Lang said she wants to demonstrate that eating better is very "doable,'' even for busy families. Local foods are accessible and affordable, she pointed out. Renville County is host to five different farmers markets, and there are a variety of producers in and around the county offering everything from fresh meats and vegetables to Minnesota-made wines for local consumption.

But there are challenges ahead, Lang admits. "We're definitely a pizza family,'' she said.

She will need to do more preparing and planning now that her pizzas must be made from scratch. She will need to identify the local sources for all of the raw ingredients she will need, find recipes and set aside time for cooking.

It's also part of the fun, she said. Her trips to farmers markets and visits to growers have already provided her with all kinds of information and great recipes and ideas, she said.

Lang acknowledges that she has much yet to learn. While at the Hector farmers market, she asked Kenney for instructions on how to cook chicken. "You know,'' she told Kenney, "the kind that comes with bones in it and everything.''

To follow the eat local challenge on Twitter, search RenCoHRAEDA.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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