Like a lot of parents, Leah Margerum didn’t give it much thought when the time came to buy baby food for her first child.   She went to the grocery store, tracked down the aisle marked for baby food and took home a bunch of those tiny jars branded with the picture of an impossibly cute kid.   And that’s what her son ate.   When she had her second child seven years later, things had changed."> Like a lot of parents, Leah Margerum didn’t give it much thought when the time came to buy baby food for her first child.   She went to the grocery store, tracked down the aisle marked for baby food and took home a bunch of those tiny jars branded with the picture of an impossibly cute kid.   And that’s what her son ate.   When she had her second child seven years later, things had changed."> Like a lot of parents, Leah Margerum didn’t give it much thought when the time came to buy baby food for her first child.   She went to the grocery store, tracked down the aisle marked for baby food and took home a bunch of those tiny jars branded with the picture of an impossibly cute kid.   And that’s what her son ate.   When she had her second child seven years later, things had changed."> Baby Steps to Eating Local – Easy Being Green, Central PA Magazine, May 2010 | Magazine copied | witf.org
Arts & Life

Baby Steps to Eating Local – Easy Being Green, Central PA Magazine, May 2010

Written by Jon Ferguson | Apr 14, 2010 3:25 PM

Her life had become less stressful, she had developed a taste for more natural stuff, and she had become a better cook. Instead of feeding her son from a jar, she gave him squash that she had roasted and puréed, and applesauce she made herself from locally grown fruit.

 

“I started out making stuff for my kids, of course, and it’s one of those classic stories where friends wanted it and family members wanted it,” says Margerum, who lives in Lancaster. “Before I knew it, I was kind of in business without really intending to be.”

 

Margerum — now the mother of three children, who are 1, 3 and 10 — is the owner of This Little Piggy, a small business with a big appetite for sustainability. She sells the same kind of food her kids eat — using food mostly grown by local, organic farmers; making it fresh in the commercial kitchen she owns (she rents space to other food-based entrepreneurs); and packaging it in eco-friendly, compostable containers.

 

She started about two-and-a-half years ago by opening a stand at Lancaster Central Market. She closed it in July, however, because she was working long hours but barely breaking even.

 

She now distributes her baby food through Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative. Margerum says the co-op tells her each week how much baby food it needs. She then makes it on Thursday, and it’s distributed on Fridays.

 

“It was very strange for me to go from Market, where I’m meeting my customers face to face, which I loved, to kind of just getting these orders coming in online. To have a distributor and not really know who’s eating the food is weird to me.”

 

She still meets some of her customers, because she does take orders from folks in the Lancaster area through her website, and either she or a friend who helps her out delivers them.

 

After she started making baby food for her son, Margerum says there was a day when her cupboard was empty and she had to run to the store to buy some. When she got it home, she opened the jar and compared what was inside to her homemade food.

 

“I was really shocked by the difference in the color; it was more gray,” she says. “And it was very watery; it seemed like I was buying mostly water.”

 

She wondered where the food inside that jar had come from. And she worried about the pollution that had been spewed into the atmosphere by the truck that had carried the jars to the store. Then there was the packaging. Sure, the jars could be recycled, but that takes energy, and the caps are thrown into the trash, destined for a landfill.

 

Margerum’s business model offers good advice for any would-be green consumer: Buy local whenever possible, which is easy in an agriculturally rich area like Central PA; limit the purchase of items that have to be shipped great distances (though nobody will begrudge you the occasional pineapple); and pay attention to packaging, avoiding material like Styrofoam, which lasts forever and is difficult to recycle.

 

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