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Make Thanksgiving a locally-sourced affair

  • If you eat a pumpkin or use one for decoration this Thanksgiving, you can bet it was grown in Illinois.

    If you eat a pumpkin or use one for decoration this Thanksgiving, you can bet it was grown in Illinois.
    Harrisburg Register file photo

updated: 11/9/2021 12:11 AM

Illinois 4-H is continuing with 4-H Volunteer Café Conversations, creating a platform for 4-H volunteers from across Illinois to meet virtually and discuss topics of interest, ideas and challenges. Volunteers will gain access to tools and techniques to support their volunteer efforts, strengthening 4-H Club and member learning experiences.

This is also an excellent opportunity for teens serving in leadership roles in their 4-H Clubs.

Café Conversations is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 11. We will address two topics during each Café Conversation so come with your ideas, questions, and since this is a Café Conversation, feel free to bring a snack as well!

Topics for the Nov. 11 Café Conversation will include:
• 4-H Parents, identifying their role in 4-H: With discussion around positive 4-H parenting and effective ways to engage 4-H parents in club meetings.
• Navigating the fiscal side of 4-H: With discussion about effective 4-H Club fundraising tips and best practices for managing 4-H fiscal matters.
Spring 4-H Volunteer Café Conversations are scheduled for Feb. 17 and May 19, both in 2022.

Choose local foods this Thanksgiving
The following is a special release from Kelly Allsup, University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator.

Celebrating the year's crops with a Thanksgiving feast has been a tradition for more than 400 years. In 1621, most likely, individuals fed their families and communities by growing vegetables in the field. This past summer, Illinois residents went to farmers markets despite the pandemic, as America continues to demand locally sourced vegetables and increased access to healthy food.

"Locally grown food isn't shipped thousands of miles, which reduces the carbon footprint, supports our local farmers, and offers tastier, more nutritious food," said Extension Nutrition and Wellness Educator, Jenna Smith.

"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."

Fall is a great time to grow and harvest vegetables because lower temperatures trigger a release of sugars that give crops a sweeter or milder flavor.

Local Thanksgiving Challenge
Visit your local farmers market, as sweet potatoes, squash, beets, onions, leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, carrots, pumpkins, garlic, honey, meats, cheese, eggs and apples are just a few Thanksgiving ingredients you can find at the market. At this time of year, think cool-season vegetables like root crops, brassica transplants (think cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower), and leafy greens.
Decorations: Local flower growers will be highlighting some of the flowers they grew this year in dried bouquets and wreaths.

Bakery goods: Check out a locally-owned bakery for bread, rolls, pies and cookies.

Local pumpkins: Pumpkins are a top Illinois crop -- a whopping 90% to 95% of all processed pumpkins in the U.S. are grown in Illinois. So an Illinois grower likely produced the pumpkins used in decorations and the pumpkins canned and used in pies. For decoration, create pumpkin towers from pumpkins called flat stackers. They come in several colors and add instant holiday charm.

Turkey: Nick Frillman, an extension educator on local food systems and small farms, says before you go out and buy a grocery store turkey, consider your local family farm by buying a heritage breed and/or pasture-raised turkey for your special meal.

Honey: Did you know honeybees visit around 2 million flowers and fly over 55,000 miles to produce just one pound of honey? The best way to find local honey is to start with your local farmers market or find a local beekeeper. Most state departments of agriculture keep a registry list of certified beekeepers so that you could buy direct from the beekeeper closest to you!

Transitioning from a traditional store-bought Thanksgiving meal to a locally sourced one can be a challenge. If you can't purchase your entire menu locally, start small and choose the options that work best for you. A pumpkin centerpiece or a locally purchased jar of honey gives thanks to the farmers and producers in your community this holiday season.

• To learn more about the Local Thanksgiving Challenge, visit the University of Illinois Extension Facebook page at noon on Nov. 18 to hear Kelly Allsup and fellow horticulture educators discuss the Challenge on "Live with the Horticulturists."