When you shop for groceries, do you know where the food comes from? How much time would it take to figure that out?

It takes just moments to learn a wealth of information about your food when you visit the Farmer’s Market in Chestnut Square Historic Village. Friendly vendors staff tables overflowing with local organic produce, meats and many other household goods.

You’ll hear where the vegetables, meat and honey came from; how everything was raised; and serving tips. Organic food and naturally made products are like that: They give consumers, sellers and growers an opportunity to connect and share their interests.

In McKinney, it’s becoming easier to eat seasonal, organic foods grown locally, use products made locally with natural ingredients, and live in a way that respects and protects the environment.

It used to take more effort, but local businesses, city groups and even some large stores are supporting green living trends with products, services and education. Thanks to them, living green and eating locally grown food – being a “locavore” – is now a snap.

What is locally grown? The national standard means that that the meat or produce hasn’t traveled more than seven hours to get from farm to market, which keeps the food fresh and the carbon footprint to a minimum.

Eating and buying in town also sustains the local economy. The McKinney Chamber of Commerce’s “McKinney First!” initiative encourages residents to patronize city merchants. There are plenty of advantages to doing so: For every $100 spent in McKinney, $68 stays and is invested back into the community. Jobs are created, salaries are paid, the community is nurtured, and energy and resources are conserved.

With that in mind, downtown McKinney is a great place to find green products and local food.

Grab a shopping bag and begin at Chestnut Square’s Farmers Market to see and hear what people are eating and what they’re talking about; then head to the nearby Square and meet the shop owners who help make McKinney thrive.

At Patina Green Home and Market, owners Luann Van Winckel, and Robert and Kaci Lyford’s interest in local organic food began with health interests in mind.

“We found ourselves at a farmers market every weekend,” Kaci says. “We met the growers and got to know them and their products. Then Robert, who’s a trained chef, began cooking with them. If you pay attention to where your food comes from, you’ll be much healthier.”

Patina Green offers foods that are hand-crafted, minimally processed, local and in season. If you’re hands-on in the kitchen, Robert (winner of the 2011 Chef’s Challenge) teaches a course he calls “Farm to Table Fundamentals,” which teaches how to source and prepare seasonal foods.

Down the street, Loco Cowpoke sells nothing but Texas-made products. There’s salsa, peanut butter, barbecue sauces, bread mixes and more. Owner Randy Abshier buys from small businesses and is dedicated to bringing to consumers the best of what Texas offers. Free samples ensure you’ll find exactly what you want, and with so much Texas swagger inside, you might leave a bit bowlegged, too.

Local Yocal Farm to Market sells organic grass-fed beef from its Oklahoma ranch that’s served all over town. To taste some, just head to Square Burger; it’s the only beef they’ll use. If the sandwich you eat at Patina Green has pork or beef, chances are it too came from Local Yocal.

Matt Hamilton, owner of Local Yocal, also sells handmade cheeses, local organic produce, bread, olive oil, coffee and more. “We’re a connector, a store that makes available to the general public products only available at a farmer’s market,” Hamilton says.

Wine making is in Bob Landon’s blood. His German grandfather made it at the turn of the century with grapes from his Missouri farm. Now Landon, with his own winery in downtown McKinney, makes it too. Keeping it as local as possible with grapes grown south of Lubbock, Landon’s award-winning wines are fermented then aged in oak barrels in Greenville and McKinney.

Education is important to understand and appreciate wine, and Landon Winery offers tastings and wine classes as well.

After skin cancer made Lotus Soap owner Cassy Zobel more aware of her skincare products, she took matters into her own hands.

Zobel first developed products for personal use so she could precisely control what she put on her skin. She has since launched a business based in McKinney, and her line of plant-based handmade products include lip balms, soap, bath bombs, body butter and lotions. She plans to release a men’s shaving line and baby products in the near future.

Zobel’s one-of-a-kind products are made in small batches and use ingredients such as coconut, olive, avocado and essential oils. Expanding production doesn’t pose an ethical challenge to Zobel; she sees it as an opportunity to better the community. “I’m never going to machine-produce my soap. Big to me means hiring local so it remains local, handmade, and beneficial to local people by employing them,” she says.

Theresa Harris, founder of Elemental Essentialz, is committed to creating cleaning products that are safe for humans and the environment. Harris is a former McKinney North High School chemistry teacher and Early Childhood Intervention specialist.

Two primary concerns spurred her business: various studies that link chemicals found in homes to increased health problems and consumer waste. She took on both issues, making it her mission to “improve health and waste nothing” by developing cleaning products that were safe and effective.

The Elemental Essentialz line includes a glass and granite cleaner, an all-purpose cleaner and a soft-scrubbing cleaner. With the help of Lotus Soaps, Harris has added handmade soaps, lotions and lip balms, using only essential oils for fragrance and Elemental Essentialz’ unique, zero-waste packaging. This is where the green really kicks in. By using refillable glass bottles, Harris hopes to help eliminate 60 million pounds of waste each year.

Elemental Essentialz is currently available at Fresh by Brookshire’s in Tyler and will soon be in all nine Central Markets. Upcoming plans include the Farmer’s Market in Chestnut Square and Deep Ellum’s Outdoor Market.

Even when something is small in scale, it may be available in a big box. Organic produce and local meats are offered in varying quantities at Whole Foods, Market Street, Kroger and Walmart. All four supermarkets carry lines of green cleaners.

For contact information about any of the local merchants, visit McKinneyOnline.com and click the “Find a Business” link.


About the author: Steven Nester is an educator and freelance writer who hosts Poets of the Tabloid Murder, a mystery author interview show that can be heard on public radio.