Adopt a locavore

Keep your culinary adventures close to home

by Kristen Wicker

Photo: Rahn’s Artisan Breads is one of two dozen 2nd Street Market vendors who locally grow or produce items

People may travel long distances for a mega pretzel or loaf of ciabatta from Rahn’s Artisan Breads, but the products travel less than two miles from a bakery on Kiser Street in Dayton to the 2nd Street Market downtown.

Rahn’s is one of more than 40 Market vendors offering distinctive products, many of them handmade and even more of them locally sourced.

“The local food trend has got some legs – and I wouldn’t have said that even two years ago,” said Rahn Keucher, who’s operated Rahn’s Artisan Breads’ retail booth at the 2nd Street Market for more than 11 years. “More and more people understand that, in many ways, anything locally sourced is less taxing on the environment, fresher and, perhaps, better for you. Like global warming, people have to believe it’s not a myth: Eating local is better for you.”

Rahn’s Artisan Breads is also one of two dozen Market vendors who locally grow or produce items. While some are only open on Saturdays, a weekend trip to the Market year round can nearly replace a traditional grocery store run. Some of the fresh, locally sourced food items available on Saturdays are:

Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, butter, and cheese, including quark and curds; eggs and meat, from bacon to pork chops and even bison, salmon and flavored chicken patties; kitchen staples, such as infused olive oils, herbs, spices, flours (including gluten-free), honey and maple syrup; fruits and veggies; pasta (including gluten-free options); salsa, potato chips and other snacks; sweets, including gluten-free and paleo treats, cookies, muffins, granola, pies, cakes, chocolate and ice cream; and, of course, such bread items as loaves, bagels and pretzels.

In addition, nine local vendors serve fresh prepared foods so you can take a break from your shopping, and numerous vendors feature such gift items as fresh flowers, jewelry, pottery, clothing, environmentally friendly items and much more.

Infuse a little local into your holidays by shopping during Stock Up Wednesdays: The 2nd Street Market will be open on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Year-round hours for the Market at 600 E. Second St. are Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Shopping local is not only fresher, it has a range of other benefits. According to the Michigan State University Extension, those include:

Flavor. When grown locally, crops are picked at their peak of ripeness versus being harvested early to be shipped. Many times, produce at local markets has been picked within 24 hours of your purchase.

Freshness. Local produce is seasonal, which is when it tastes best.

Nutrition. Local food has a shorter time between being harvested and arriving on your table, and it is less likely the nutrient value has decreased. Food imported from far away states and countries is often older, has traveled longer and sits in distribution centers before it gets to your store.

The economy. Money spent with local farmers and growers stays close to home and is reinvested into businesses and services in our community.

The environment. By purchasing locally grown foods, you help maintain farmland and green and/or open spaces in your community. Small, local farmers tend to use more sustainable growing practices, which protect soil, air and water.

Safer, more humane food supply. The more steps between you and your food’s source, the more chances for contamination. Small, local meat producers also tend to treat animals humanely – and provide better working conditions for humans, too.

Knowledge. Local growers can tell you how the food was grown. You can ask what practices they use to raise and harvest the crops. When you know where your food comes from and who grew it, you know a lot more about that food.

Indeed, Rahn’s Artisan Breads embodies many of these benefits – plus, like many of the 2nd Street Market vendors, the business is a family affair: Keucher’s wife, Gina, and sons (Blake, 19; Jacob, 16; Damien, 11; and Noah, 8) are in some way involved, whether it be helping bake bread or selling the finished product at the Market. During a recent Friday night at the Kiser Street bakery, for example, Jacob grabbed snakes of dough as they popped out of a machine dubbed “The Beast” and put them on trays to rise into what would become bread for Sub House.

“I started when I was big enough to carry the trays,” Jacob said. “I like helping my dad and being able to take off some of the workload.” Damien, working at the hearth oven nearby, agreed: “I like spending time with Dad,” he said.

“Those of us at the market who are producing locally [must] like what we’re doing because there are a lot of easier ways to make money,” added Keucher, who usually works a dozen hours a day and through the night, six days a week. “But we love our work. It’s honest work, and at the end of the day, I can tell you what I’ve produced. I can tell customers what’s in their bread with absolute certainty.”

2nd Street Market is located at 600 E. Second St. in Dayton. For more information, please call 937.228.2088 or visit metroparks.org/Parks/SecondStreetMarket/Home.aspx.

Reach DCP freelance writer Kristen Wicker at KristenWicker@DaytonCityPaper.com

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