If you are familiar with the Sara Hardy Farmers Market or Village at Grand Traverse Commons food events, you’re probably also familiar with the name Tricia Phelps. Get to know the Traverse City foodie and CEO of Taste the Local Difference, Michigan’s local food marketing agency.

Tell us what brought you to the area, and ultimately, to your role at Taste the Local Difference.

Local Food Systems were just beginning to peak my interest when I graduated college so when I received a job offer from SEEDS to help manage the Sara Hardy Farmers Market in the summer of 2011, I jumped at the chance. Soon after, I accepted a full-time position at the Minervini Group helping with the Village at Grand Traverse Commons events and communications. I would weave in local food where I could by managing the year-round farmers market and writing content for my own food blog.

In 2014, I was offered a full-time position at Taste the Local Difference which quickly transformed from sales and coordination in Northwest Michigan to statewide operations management and finally CEO in October 2017.

How do you incorporate the Taste the Local Difference mission into your lifestyle?

I belong to a year-round CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which means I pick up a box of fresh fruits and vegetables on a weekly basis from the farm down the road. At first, I was intimidated by CSAs because I wasn’t an experienced cook and would often waste some of the produce. But now I love it because I try new recipes all the time based on what’s in my box that week or what’s on its last leg. And the convenience of less shopping is a blessing for me.

I try to incorporate as much local as possible outside of the CSA share and when we eat out, too; frequenting places like Raduno, Harvest and a new favorite: Fustini’s Fresh Take.

Planning a few meals ahead each week is the best advice I can give. That can mean prepping on Sunday or just gathering quick recipes and ingredients to have on hand. This time of year, I use the crock-pot at least twice a week.

What are the health benefits of eating locally sourced foods?

My favorite health benefit to eating locally is that produce is most nutrient dense when it’s ripe and harvested just before eating. The more hours it takes to get food from the farm to your plate, the more nutrients it loses in the process. Additionally, because our food usually travels so far to get to us (an average of 1,500 miles!) non-local produce is often picked before it’s actually ripe. Buying local produce means it travels fewer miles and is picked at its peak, which is better for our health and tastes a lot better too.

There are many economic benefits as well. 

My favorite economic benefit is kind of a broad cross-cutting benefit with social and environmental impacts too. But if you haven’t seen this poster we created, you should totally use it.

So, the favorite benefit: Spending more of your money with local farms makes farming in this area a sustainable career choice for young people. Without that market for local food and more young people becoming farmers, the beautiful farmland that helps define our natural landscape will be lost and developed.

Would you be willing to share a fall recipe with our readers?

I love this Thai Butternut Squash Curry, and it’s the perfect thing for fall. Also, for the hunters out there, a venison chili is a great, leaner alternative to beef. Plus, anyone who doesn’t eat meat can just add a variety of beans to make it vegetarian.

Recipe: Venison Chili


  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1.5 pounds ground venison
  • 2 cans (15.5 ounces) of kidney beans
  • 2 cans (10 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree
  • 2–4 tablespoons chili powder, adjust for taste
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, diced


  1. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté onions, carrots, celery, garlic and spices in olive oil until soft.
  2. Add in venison and break apart, cook about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in beans, tomatoes, puree and jalapeño.
  4. Bring to simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper, leave uncovered to thicken.
  6. Serve with toppings

ALSO! Additional recipes are added to the TLD blog every month here. This roasted delicata squash and ginger salad is a must try, too.

Written by Courtney Jerome.

Healthy Foods & Recipes

Photo(s) by Tricia Phelps