Happy New Year! As we look ahead at 2018, I want to start the year with a story that celebrates a couple of our local food champions.

I grew up on my family’s farm, so I attended public school here in Cannon Falls. It was a relatively small school system (I graduated with 120), so we tended to know our classmates and students in neighboring grades. I had a friend in my grade named Barbara, and another classmate, Ryan, who rode my bus and played on my junior high basketball team. I also sort-of knew a guy named Chris, who was a year or two older than me, and the brother of a friend of mine. We all graduated, went our separate ways, and did what young people should do: discovered our interests and a path to work we found meaningful.

In the unscripted ways that life leads us all, I’m happy to call these three friends and partners today. You see, Chris and Barbara married and founded Nick’s Diner and Cannon River Catering, and Ryan now owns Mill Street Tavern. They all run great establishments in downtown Cannon Falls, and I’d recommend you stop in for a bite when you next come through town. Best of all, I’m proud to report that they all serve Ferndale Market turkey!

We are, of course, thrilled to see our turkey on many of the region’s best farm-to-table restaurants, but I’ll admit that there’s a very special pride in seeing our name on these two Cannon Falls menus. Despite our proximity, it’s worth mentioning that these restaurants- like all our customers- probably have an easier option to order another turkey, yet they stop out at the farm anytime they’re in need. They know us, our staff, and our farming practices, and they see a difference worth the effort they make to source from us.

If we could rewrite the model of our modern food system, I’d like to think this might be what it would look like, with relationships built around good food. Independent farmers, taking pride in the knowledge that their work is nourishing their neighbors. Local restauranteurs, knowing the source of the foods in their kitchen. Each dollar spent supporting the vitality of the local community, instead of being mailed away to a far-off corporate headquarters. No contracts or purchase agreements needed. It’s a model that’s truly sustainable.

As we start the new year, it’s my hope that 2018 will bring more opportunities for local partnerships like this, and I’m grateful for all the ways you to sustain our local food system each day through your support.