By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Aug 17, 2012 at 4:32 PM

Did you know that the average ingredient in a North American meal travels more than 1,500 miles to reach your plate?

It's true. Now imagine the impact that distance has upon the freshness of the food we're eating, the amount of fuel that's used to transport that food and the farms which grow that food.

If you're like many Americans, you're becoming more aware of the impact your buying decisions have on your health, the economy and the earth. You're also looking to support organizations that make a difference by producing and sourcing their products locally.

Two upcoming events, the Fondy Farm Feast and the Eat Local Resource Fair, aim to make it easier for you to do just that.

On Aug. 26, local food advocates have their very first opportunity to support the efforts of the Fondy Food Center, a non-profit organization which has been working to connect connect Milwaukeeans to local, fresh food for nine years.

The Fondy Farm Feast promises to be a celebration of all things local. Feast-goers will partake in a delicious, multi-course meal prepared by some of the area's finest chefs, including Jan Kelly of Meritage, Peter Sandroni and Jason Gorman of La Merenda, and Andy Tenaglia of Lagniappe Brasserie.

The dinner, which will be held on the Fondy Farm in Port Washington, will showcase fresh, local ingredients from the Fondy Farmers Market, Fondy Farm and other local producers.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to chat with the farmers and tour the Fondy Farm, including its brand new on-site hoophouse, irrigation well and future site for the new organic fruit orchard, recently awarded through a competition sponsored by Edy's Fruit Bars Communities Take Root Program.

"Rarely do folks get a chance to enjoy a multi-course meal prepared by some of Milwaukee's finest chefs in a casual farm setting with live music and farm tours," says Young Kim, executive director at Fondy Food Center.

"Restaurant patrons would pay far more for the amount, variety and quality of food and drink that will be served ... and the ticket price is going to an organization with a proven track record of supporting the entire farm-to-fork continuum of good, healthy and affordable food for the people that need it the most."

We'd add that interested parties shouldn't wait to buy tickets, since they will only be available through Sunday, Aug. 19.

Money raised from ticket sales will go directly to support the Milwaukee's largest and most diverse farmers market, Fondy Farmers Market, including its Food Stamp Redemption and WIC Market Match programs, which make a difference for a growing number of low-income families in the area.

The event will also benefit the Fondy Farm Project, which gives participating low-income farmers long-term access to affordable, high-quality farmland, along with the business support they need to succeed.

Last year, the farmers harvested 370,000 pounds of food, nearly all of it sold at the Fondy Market.

"The real importance of people supporting Fondy Food Center is that everyone has a stake in ensuring healthy farmers, healthy food and healthy people in (southeastern) Wisconsin," Kim explains.

"A healthy community, particularly on Milwaukee's North Side where access to fresh, affordable, locally grown food is especially limited, benefits everyone – from the farmers who are able to support their families doing the work they love to the families benefiting from healthy food: lower diet-related disease, better educational outcomes resulting from better-nourished minds and bodies and closer family and community ties as people share culinary traditions and recipes."

Fondy Farm Feast will take place Sunday, Aug. 26 from 4 p.m. to twilight at Fondy Farm, 850 County Highway P in Port Washington. Tickets are $100 per person and can be purchased online through Sunday, Aug. 19.

On the other hand, maybe you just want to learn more about what it means to eat more locally – or gather resources on how to do it here in Milwaukee. During the Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge, which takes place Sept. 1-15, individuals are invited to spend two weeks focusing on eating more locally.

The point of the challenge is to throw down the gauntlet and set aside the time to discover new local sources for everyday foods, determine how one's values align with local eating and experiment with various approaches to local eating.

As a kick-off for the Milwaukee Challenge, Eat Local Milwaukee is sponsoring the sixth Annual Eat Local Resource Fair from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25 at the Urban Ecology Center, 1500 E. Park Place.

This free event is the perfect place to gain a wealth of information, tips and tools to continue enjoying local foods all year long.

"This event offers a great variety of opportunities for people who are interested in navigating the local food system," explains Jamie Ferschinger, branch manager for the Riverside Urban Ecology Center. "Visitors can munch on delicious local food, have a conversation with local chefs and food producers, attend presentations and workshops and gather resources."

Guests are invited to sample and purchase locally produced foods from area vendors like Clock Shadow Creamery, Outpost Natural Foods, Cybros – The Sprouted Bakehouse, Castle Rock Organic Dairy, NessAlla Kombucha, Potter's Crackers, KP Toffee and Lonesome Stone Milling, or grab lunch from Jeppa Joes or MKE Localiscious food trucks.

They can also peruse a multitude of local vendors and organizations including Milwaukee Empty Bowls, MKEfoodies, Slow Food Southeast Wisconsin, Boswell Books and Bliffert's Lumber and Supply, who will be selling home canning supplies, or grab samples and swag from restaurants that specialize in locally sourced cuisine including Beans and Barley, Braise, Fresh, Mia Famiglia, Roots and Verduras Tea House and Café.

And for those people who have a special kid in their life, Boswell Books will host a talk and book signing with Terese Allen, author of "The Flavor of Wisconsin for Kids," a new book that is a unique blend of history and recipes designed for kids and adults to use together.

Additional workshops will include tips on buying meat directly from farmers, talking local foods with La Merenda's Chef Peter Sandroni and time-saving tricks for soups and more.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.