Going Local with Victoria Wesseler

Going Local with Victoria Wesseler

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Victoria Wesseler of GOING LOCAL. Click here to read the full article.

Tell us some more about GOING LOCAL and what inspired you to start it?
After taking early retirement from a business ethics and regulatory compliance consulting business that I founded and ran for twelve years, I wanted to do something totally different with the next phase of my life. Something that combined my love for gardening, food preservation, and cooking and helping people be successful in those pursuits. My friends kept telling me that they loved my homemade food, recipes, and gardening tips and that I should find a way to share that information on a larger scale.

One night on a flight coming back from a business trip in Seattle, I got the idea for a blog site which could be used to do just that. I chose to focus my content on Indiana local food-something I am very passionate about-while still providing the cooking and gardening information. The name "GOING LOCAL" and the logo just came to me. The image of that logo was so clear in my mind and the concept felt so right that I knew I had to pursue it! The site was launched in September 2007.

On GOING LOCAL, visitors get information to help them discover, celebrate, and savor the abundance of Indiana’s fresh, in-season, and local foods. It’s a community for people who want:

  • Sources for delicious, healthy, locally grown, and in-season foods.
  • Information about Indiana farmers, businesses, and individuals who grow, raise, produce, and sell local foods.
  • Recipes and tips for preparing seasonal dishes that are healthy, quick, easy, and delicious.
  • To share thoughts, ideas, and experiences for "Going Local" in Indiana.

My goal is for GOING LOCAL to be the "go to" site for Indiana local food lovers. Interestingly enough, I do get quite a few out of state visitors since much of the information about cooking, preserving, and gardening can be useful to anyone. And many of the Indiana producers ship their products around the country so those not living in Indiana can still enjoy many of the great food items that I feature on the site.

You mentioned that the idea of preserving foods was first introduced to you by your husband, who grew up on a Southern Indiana farm. Does the same hold true for eating locally, or was that something you began doing at an earlier age?
Growing up, I never wanted to learn how to cook. The kitchen was the last place you’d find me standing in on a regular basis! It wasn’t until I divorced in my late 30s and took a few cooking classes that I began to cook for myself and appreciate the value of using fresh, in-season ingredients. As my interest in cooking grew, I began to seek out quality ingredients and that lead me to discover local farmers markets and local food producers. But my heartfelt passion for local food really grew when I married Robert in 1994 and we began working in our own vegetable gardens. We now have 7 acres where we grow and preserve about 50% of all the food that we eat.

Your culinary skills are exceptional to say the least. Do you think that being a good cook makes eating locally easier?
That is really a huge compliment, given my late start in the kitchen! But I think it’s just the opposite. Eating locally makes you a better cook. When you have ingredients that are fresh and flavorful, you really need to do very little to them to make an outstanding dish. The recipes on the GOING LOCAL site are very simple because my assumption is that when you make them, you are going to use fresh, in-season fruits, vegetables and herbs; and/or locally produced meats, eggs, honey, and dairy products. With ingredients like that, the less you do to them, the better the final dish will taste.

What’s your favorite recipe at the moment (or of all time)?
My favorite recipe of the moment is whatever I’m making with something that’s fresh, local, and in-season. My favorite recipe of all time is my late mother’s frittata because it has great sentimental value to me and reflects my philosophy that good ingredients prepared simply will always produce the best meals (and sometimes, as in the case of this special recipe, the best memories).

Your site gives readers lots of ideas on how to make eating local easy, but what do you think is the biggest challenge about eating locally?
The answer to that would vary with each person you asked. Some might say it’s getting to the markets on a busy weekend or some might say it’s the extra bit of prep time involved with using fresh produce. I personally don’t think there are any great challenges when you consider the benefits. The people I know who use local foods find it a joyful experience to source it and cook with it.

You visit a lot of farms… what is the most prominent message that you hear from local farmers? Or, what is an overall attitude that farmers have towards the growing trend of eating locally?
I love farm visits! I could spend all day talking about gardening, collecting eggs, or watching someone milk cows (notice I said "watching")! I leave every farm with so much knowledge and am always inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit, hard work, and dedication of the men and women who produce all that great food for us. The producers that I’ve spent time with are, of course, delighted to see the local food movement gaining more traction in Indiana and are very supportive of the GOING LOCAL site. Many of them encourage the public to visit their farms to see how they produce what they sell. I would encourage people to do that whenever they can. It’s a great lesson in what it actually takes to raise animals or grow produce. And it’s no small effort in terms of physical labor, personal determination, and financial investment! I can guarantee that you’ll leave a farm with a whole new level of respect for these great people.

What does GOING LOCAL have in store for 2008?
With the growing season coming on fairly soon, you’ll see more posts about farmers markets, more producer profiles, and share my husband’s and my adventures as we work in our gardens. I will also be doing a series of postings called "Preserving the Harvest" to help people learn how to preserve the summer bounty for their winter use.

I’m also planning a week-long celebration in August across Indiana called GOING LOCAL WEEK where they’ll be all sorts of activities celebrating local food and local food producers.

I want to continue to help people discover and enjoy the bounty of the incredible local food that we have here in Indiana and promote the great folks who produce that food. I’m having a great time sharing information and feel very fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to be a part of the Indiana local food movement. I can only hope people enjoy visiting the GOING LOCAL site as much as I enjoy creating it!

Posted in Interviews by Rhaya on February 22, 2008 | Permalink | No Comments

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