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Seek out local ingredients for Thanksgiving meal

This past spring, the Gwinnett Daily Post featured the 100-Mile Diet.

Three staffers went a week living by the guidelines of the diet, meaning we only ate foods grown within a 100-mile radius of our metro Atlanta homes. It wasn't a weight loss regimen, but rather a way to bring awareness to this increasingly popular way of eating.

After a week, we unearthed new recipes, new foods and a whole new lifestyle. Now that Thanksgiving has rolled around, it seems prime time to once again highlight the local eating option. After all, wasn't the original Thanksgiving meal created under the same theory?

Depending on your region, your Thanksgiving meal may have to be tailored a bit. James MacKinnon, founder of the 100-Mile Diet Society, lives in Canada (where Thanksgiving is celebrated in October) and had to forgo turkey altogether. Salmon just made much more sense.

"But it was still just as festive," he said. "Thanksgiving doesn't mean just turkey. This is a great way to start new family traditions."

We've gathered area resources to help in planning your own local-eating efforts. From turkey to wine, here are our suggestions for having a truly traditional holiday.

The turkey

Lucky for Gwinnettians, eating locally this Thanksgiving doesn't mean giving up the turkey. Diners can give thanks to Bay Creek Farm in Loganville, where the owners breed and sell turkeys. And it's situated safely within Gwinnett's 100-mile zone.

"People are becoming more aware of where their food comes from, and are realizing how removed we are from our food," said Patti Emkey, owner of Bay Creek Farm. "We just decided to do this on a small scale this year as an experiment, and I've been very surprised by how overwhelmingly positive the response has been."

As an added bonus, Bay Creek turkeys come de-feathered, cleaned and oven-ready, just like they would in the store.

Bay Creek Farm also sells chicken and duck, with limited availability in the winter. Visit www.baycreekfarm.com.

Produce

A variety of winter produce is available at area farmers markets. True, late fall and winter are not prime times for these homegrown retailers, but several markets are open year-round. Check out the Peachtree Road Farmer's Market, which will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at 2744 Peachtree Road, Atlanta; the Decatur Organic Farmer's Market, held from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays at 163 Clairmont Ave., Decatur; and the Morningside Farmers Market, held from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays at 1393 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta.

Whole Foods also sells a range of produce grown locally (meaning Georgia) and regionally (meaning the Southeast). Though some of this produce is grown outside of the 100-mile range, hailing from Florida and South and North Carolina, MacKinnon said that's OK.

"In the winter months, you more or less have to take what you can get," he said. "As long as you're making the effort, that's really all that matters."

On a recent stroll through the Whole Foods Buckhead location, spokeswoman Alisha Bess pointed out apples and cucumbers from Georgia; bell peppers, eggplants, collard greens and squash from South Carolina; okra and sweet potatoes from North Carolina; and a variety of citrus fruits, as well as corn and something called "ugly ripe tomatoes," from Florida.

"There has been a big push by our customers recently for local and regional foods, and we are working even harder to fill those needs," Bess said. "With the freeze earlier this year, things have been harder on the farmers. But I'd say we still have plenty to fill a Thanksgiving table."

Wine

Finding local wine is not a problem for 100-mile followers. Chateau Elan is right here in our backyard, located in Braselton.

The winery sells products on site, and also hosts tastings. Their wines are available at Cost Plus World Market and other stores throughout the metro area. Chateau Elan is located at 100 Tour De France in Braselton. Visit www.chateauelanatlanta.

Habersham Winery in Helen also offers a selection of local wines, as well as tastings, at its vineyard, 7025 S. Main St. in Helen. Visit www.habershamwinery.com.