I love local products. And when I say local, I mean small producers making and selling quality goods near their own back yard. When I’m at home in Minneapolis and whenever I travel, I like to see what food, drink and products are made where I’m at.
My father lives in the Sierra foothills east of Fresno, California. The central valley of California is home to big commercial agriculture, but also to lots of grassroots producers. For my birthday he gave me local goats milk soap, lip balm, and a big bottle of olive oil all produced just down the road form his home.
Suzanne Harper of Udder Joy Farms in Tollhouse, CA, made the soap and lip balm. She and her family run over 40 head of goats, which they milk for bath, body and home dairying products. They also give farm tours and classes, which I will be taking with my daughter the next time I’m out to visit. The soap is lovely. One bar is embossed with the word “handmade” across the top, and is layered with luffa sponge bits, pumice and other cleansing goodies-perfect for hands dirty from the garden. The other bar has oatmeal and makes a great bath soap, particularly for my dry skin. The goats milk lip balm has a nice silky texture, which I used repeatedly on my sun-baked lips during vacation.
Verni Farms in Clovis, California, is a regular fixture at area and southern California farmers markets where they sell olive oil, hand picked and cured olives, fresh and dried fruit and nuts. They make a wonderful extra virgin cold pressed olive oil called California Gold. It’s rich and buttery with a warm yellow color. I’ve used it to roast zucchini and eggplant, dress tomato and cucumber salad, and even as the oil it in my pancake batter. Best of all, I drizzle it on my morning toast with a little salt. I’m sure glade that bottle made it home in my suit case or the TSA guys would have been very lucky indeed.
So next time you’re visiting out of town, check out what’s made in the neighborhood, whether it’s pickles at the farmers market or a local brew at the bar. And take some home to share.