"It's really best to eat what's in season," she explains.
Local Harvest may be small, but it's got the basics -- milk, cheese, bread, corn, jam and locally raised pork (the other other white meat) -- in addition to plenty of what most of us would consider extras: honey, mulling spices for cider, organic pumpkin seeds, balsamic vinaigrettes and lavender-scented cleaning products. The supply changes with the season, though, because Hands gets her food from farmers in Kansas and Missouri, where crops depend on the weather. Although the store's dedicated customers revel in the knowledge that the food they're taking home is fresh -- it hasn't been sitting, first in a warehouse, then in transit and finally on a grocery-store shelf -- it is hard to encourage people to shop in a store where some of the things they love may not be available all year.
"We are on an uphill battle," Hands admits, noting that her aim is not to compete with superstores. "Changing people's mindset isn't easy."
Still, shoppers ought to find items to help them fulfill idealistic New Year's resolutions to eat well or to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. Meanwhile, Hands and coworkers Brent Kroh and James Abbott have a few of their own goals for the New Year. This year, they started the Wednesday Night Organic Farmers' Market in the City Market, but it didn't get going until midseason. By June 2003, they hope to start bringing area growers into town to sell their food. Hands also hopes they'll have more time to develop a program known as SOUP -- Society of Urban Producers.
"I have major issues with the fact that good, safe food is not accessible for all people," Hands says, explaining that she'd like to start reclaiming vacant lots and teaching people to grow things in them, either to eat or to sell back to her for income.
The trio also plans to start growing its own exclusive produce. Kroh, who worked in the restaurant business for three years before joining Local Harvest, plans to work with area chefs so that Local Harvest gardeners can cultivate items for which there's a demand.
This has all been quite an undertaking, especially considering that when Hands started out, she had a staff of one -- herself -- and was still working a part-time job to pay the bills. "If I had sat down and done a lot of forecasting and planning, people would have told me I was crazy," she says. "Some people still do, but that's OK."
For now, the most exciting item on Local Harvest's shelves is a bizarre pair of hand-knit gloves without any fingers. They may seem impractical, but with the way leg warmers have taken off again, who's to say forearm warmers won't be the next big thing?