Flavor & farmers

TEDxNMU to feature local food discussion

Alex Palzewicz mixes a Barrel + Beam beer into her stock for the chili she prepared for Northern Michigan University's Chili Challenge. Her chili, which was made of over 90 percent Michigan ingredients, took Most Original Chili in the competition. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — We are creatures of convenience. We quickly search the answers to any question we have on our smartphones, shop for our goods from the comfort of our couches and even pick up our food from drive-through windows. But at what cost?

As we seek food from the quickest, most convenient and inexpensive sources, the need for local farmers diminishes, and so does the nutrients in our food.

“Food is so intimate,” said Alex Palzewicz, a speaker for the TEDxNMU 2019: Diving Deeper event. “We’re putting something in our body, doing it regularly three times a day. I hear people say they have so many gimmicks about things they will or won’t do, but I don’t hear them having gimmicks about what they put into their bodies … It’s important for us to understand what we’re putting in our bodies.”

At the TedxNMU event, to be held at Northern Michigan University, Palzewicz will discuss the relationship between food and the consumer and the importance of buying local.

“If there is one relationship in my life that has gotten me through the good and bad, it’s my relationship with food,” Palzewicz said. “Sometimes we eat for comfort, sometimes in celebration and other times for subsistence. Whatever the reason we eat, it’s something we do every day. I got into local food because, to me, eating felt intimate and important. In my obsession to know more about the food I eat, I realized how nutritious and delicious local food could be, but most importantly my food relationship created so many more real-life relationships to the people who are growing and raising all the things I love to eat.”

For Palzewicz, this relationship began at a young age, as she raised animals and became involved in the Stephenson 4-H program. After working in kitchens, writing reports on how food is marketed to consumers and watching the film “Food Inc.,” she realized how unhealthy and inefficient the way the majority of the population eats really is.

When purchasing food from local sources you are supporting local farmers, creating jobs within the community and putting your money into the local economy, which is crucial in the rural Upper Peninsula communities, she explained. Palzewicz also works to spread the importance of eating locally as the U.P. food coordinator for Taste the Local Difference, a local food marketing agency that aims to provide affordable marketing and assistance to local farmers — a task she says is no longer easy due to the advertising of commercial products and consumers’ focus on convenience.

“That’s the point of the speech, talking about a food relationship and being present when we purchase food and being present when we decide what we want,” Palzewicz said.

“We have so many options we often let advertising or the convenience choose what we’re eating,” she added. “Look at whatever you’re about to have for your meal and ask yourself if you know where it comes from. Were you able to shake the hand of the person that grew that, that raised the animal? Is that something that you’re able to do if you’re not? Where is it coming from?”

Palzewicz believes the U.P. provides some of the richest agriculture around, yet there is no pressure to buy from these farms, and so the food isn’t being eaten. There is a common notion that purchasing and eating locally can be difficult, and at times it can be, Palzewicz agreed, but there are ways to do so simply, and it’s definitely more delicious, she added.

Palzewicz recommends starting small by cooking at home and buying local ingredients that are abundant in the area such as eggs, milk, maple syrup and honey. She also noted shopping on the edges of your local grocery store in the meat, dairy and produce sections, and avoiding the middle aisles filled with highly processed foods. Going to the farmer’s market and talking with area farmers about their passion is also a great way to become invested in what you’re eating, she said.

Overall, Palzewicz hopes her talk will help the community to grow by inspiring its members not just to be consumers, but to be involved with the food one chooses to nourish their body with and with the farmers who produce it.

“I just really love flavorful food, and I think that flavor comes from food that is raised with a purpose and not food that is raised for a commodity,” Palzewicz said. “I want to help empower those who are working in or around food — chefs, farmers, distributors, grocery stores.”

TEDXNMU 2019: Diving Deeper will take place from 1 to 8 p.m. March 16, at NMU’s Forest Roberts Theatre and feature 11 other speakers who will dive into their passions. Tickets are free for students and $45 for the public, and can be purchased at any NMU ticketing outlet or online at tickets.nmu.edu.

“People should come to the Ted Talk because I don’t think they understand the amazing things that are happening in their own backyard here in the Upper Peninsula and I think this is a way to figure out the first easy step for you as an individual,” Palzewicz said. “I think this will open your eyes to what products are available in your area and will also help give you that empowerment to find the local food.”

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is photos@miningjournal.net.