The best baby food uses local and seasonal ingredients


At Little Harvest we aim to make the best baby food possible. One way we do this is by planning our menu around the seasons. This enables us to source the freshest, most nutrient dense ingredients that are available to make the best baby food there is! When food is sourced local it contains more nutrients since it spends less time out of the ground – the source of growth and vitamins. Not only does sourcing local mean healthier food for your baby, it is more flavorful and better for the environment and local economy. It’s a win, win, win!

We had the opportunity to sit down with Irv Cernauskas, fellow parent and Co-Founder of Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks, to discuss the importance of eating local and with the seasons. This applies not only to baby food, but to the food we eat as adults as well.

Irv & Shelly’s is a local distributor that sources organic ingredients from local farmers in the Midwest and supplies them to local businesses and direct to consumer’s doors. Little Harvest uses Irv & Shelly’s for the majority of our local, organic, produce needs to make the best baby food possible for your little nugget!

Little Harvest: How did Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks get started?

Irv Cernauskas: It started with a love for the natural environment and wanting to protect that. Our local, organic farmers are really wonderful stewards of our eco systems, so that’s part of the puzzle for me. Secondly, we really believe that eating well and good nutrition are important for your personal health; both mental and physical. I got to meet some local farmers through SGA and I be to see a few things. One is what wonderful people they are but also how challenging it is for local farmers to really manage the entire supply chain; from growing the food to harvesting it, to marketing it and transporting it. At that time, a little over 10 years ago, we knew that just a very small fraction of the food we consume here in Illinois, and in Chicago in particular, is grown in our region. This just seems wrong because we have this great farmland and we’re not even feeding ourselves and you know, that’s nuts! The only way we are going to get beyond the fact that less than 5% of the food we eat is being grown here, is if farmers can spend more time in production and less time driving it all over the country side and marketing it and selling it.

If they could focus more on production, then maybe they need a distribution partner. So there is a need and an opportunity there and that was the germ behind our business – to serve as a partner to our growers, to help them get new customers and to help move their product more efficiently.

LH: The mission of Irv and Shelley’s Fresh Picks is to make great, healthy foods available to everyone by supporting our local farms. How would you define local?

Irv: The definition of local for me is if you can do a round trip drive in one day. For a practical matter it’s about a 250mi. radius. Part of the reason for that is if a farmer or local trucking company can’t make that delivery and get home in the same day then you have to rely on large brokers who have a national or global span. Then you lose that direct connection with a local producer. Which to me is an important part of supporting local.

LH: What are some of the other benefits of supporting local farms and businesses?

Irv: What is important about being local is if you can get it within a day of being harvested. That means it can be left on the plant or in the ground longer and it has more chance to absorb nutrients from the soil. And it’s more flavorful. When you get something that tastes good, what you are tasting is the nutrients. So food tastes better and is more nutritious if it’s able to grow to maturity and get ripe on the plant before it’s harvested. If you’re going beyond that 1 day delivery frame and you’re looking at trucks that are 3-4 days on route and then they are going to a distribution center where they sit for a day or 2 and then they get to the store where they are sitting for another day or 2, then your looking at a week. As soon as you harvest something it begins to lose nutrients. So the longer it’s out of the soil before it gets to you the greater nutrient loss it will experience. Local is going to be tastier and more nutritious for those two reasons; more nutrient uptake and less nutrient loss. So that’s a big thing.

The second thing is we should all take care of our own backyard and that should be a priority for us. Our local farmers are taking care of our local eco systems. And if you care about your local environment then you should support people who are looking out for it. These people are big stewards of the land and our local organic farmers really love their land. They are protecting wildlife habitat. They’re protecting surface water and ground water. They are using manual labor and not so much equipment; so there is not as much petroleum product and fossil fuels being burned. If you support farmers who are using good, organic methods and not petrochemical intensive and fossil fuel burning agricultural practices, you can have a big environmental impact.

And the third thing is local economy. By importing food you are exporting your dollars and those dollars are lost to your community forever and not coming back. They say for every dollar spent on local food there is a multiplier effect where the dollar gets resituated and can generate 3 or 4 times as much economic activity. That helps bring economic life back to our communities, especially to our rural communities. When you have a shorter supply chain more of those food dollars goes back to the producer. They get .55 to .60 cents for every retail dollar where as if you have 6 middlemen between you and the grower they’re getting maybe a nickel on the retail dollar. Farmers benefit a lot more with that shorter supply chain. There’s also more accountability and transparency there. You know where your food is being produced.

LH: We focus on sourcing ingredients that are both local and seasonal to make the best baby food possible. What are your thoughts on eating with the seasons?

Irv: I think that the human body is a wonderful machine, you know. You go through the winter and in the spring, I don’t know about you, but I really crave greens after a long winter. And what the earth wants to produce in the spring are those tender, leafy greens and that’s what your body is also craving. I think to be in tune with your body is a big reason to eat seasonally. Over the course of the year you have a great diversity of different types of nutrients you get through your diet and it covers a lot of nutritional bases. One way of getting a diverse diet is eating what the earth wants to produce that week or that month. You get a broader spectrum of nutritional value than if you are just eating the same thing year round. When you eat with the seasons that’s what the earth wants to produce and that’s what is going to be the best. Any given week of the year if the earth wants to put that crop out that’s what is going to be at peak nutritional value. Instead of fighting nature you are going to get something that’s really fresh and abundant and less costly too. If you go with flow of what nature wants to produce you are going to get the better product at the better price, typically.

LH: As a father of 2, do you have any tricks and tips for our parents on how to get children to eat well?

Irv: One thing that our kids always responded really well to is if they could pick it themselves, or if there was something in the yard they could kind of nurture. We had berry bushes and they would get up in the morning and pick all of the berries that had ripened since the day before and I think that’s huge for kids to have some kind of connection to how stuff grows. You know, if they have an opportunity to pick it themselves that’s a great way to get them into the habit of eating well.

Thanks to Irv, for sitting down with us and discussing the importance of eating local and with the seasons and how it relates to your own family. Little Harvest is on a mission to make the best baby food there is while making a difference in the local communities we serve. Sourcing from local farmers is one way we promise to fulfill this mission to our customers and the little babies that enjoy our food!

Ready to try Little Harvest’s fresh, seasonal baby food? Try us out here!

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