Two days left until May 1st, the official start day of the Eat Local challenge. Actually, given that it’s 10:30 p.m. and I’ve eaten all I’ll eat today, I have just one day left until May 1st.
So the challenge is this: For the month of May, I will eat only items that have been grown and produced within 100 miles of my home, in San Luis Obispo. However, I am allowed a few exemptions. So, my exemptions include coffee (locally roasted, but not grown), soy milk, chocolate, grains, pasta, salt, goat cheese, and soy sauce. And I guess tofu. My favorite tofu is made in Watsonville, which is just 15 miles north of my 100 mile radius. I’m oh so strict.
With these exemptions, as much as possible, I’ll work to find the items in state.
I suppose my biggest challenge will be packing lunches for work… I often just grab an Annie’s Organics veggie burger, a piece of fruit or veggies, and some pretzels or something. I’ll have to start cooking BIGGER each night to assure local leftovers the next morning. I guess my next biggest challenge will be eating out. There are only a few restaurants here in town who truly make an effort to showcase local items. Well, maybe more cooking and less eating out. Should be healthier, no? And maybe even a little easier on the ol’ pocketbook….
Why local? There are dozens of reasons to try to help support your local communtiy. Here’s what Locavore has to say:
Our food now travels an average of 1,500 miles before ending up on our plates. This globalization of the food supply has serious consequences for the environment, our health, our communities and our tastebuds. Much of the food grown in the breadbasket surrounding us must be shipped across the country to distribution centers before it makes its way back to our supermarket shelves. Because uncounted costs of this long distance journey (air pollution and global warming, the ecological costs of large scale monoculture, the loss of family farms and local community dollars) are not paid for at the checkout counter, many of us do not think about them at all.
What is eaten by the great majority of North Americans comes from a global everywhere, yet from nowhere that we know in particular. How many of our children even know what a chicken eats or how an onion grows? The distance from which our food comes represents our separation from the knowledge of how and by whom what we consume is produced, processed, and transported. And yet, the quality of a food is derived not merely from its genes and the greens that fed it, but from how it is prepared and cared for all the way until it reaches our mouths. If the production, processing, and transport of what we eat is destructive of the land and of human community — as it very often is — how can we understand the implications of our own participation in the global food system when those processes are located elsewhere and so are obscured from us? How can we act responsibly and effectively for change if we do not understand how the food system works and our own role within it?
Well, there you go. Add to this the swiftly skyrocketing cost of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels play a very important role in the foods found in your supermarket… from the GMO seed production of a vegetable to the making and application of pesticides and finally to the lengthy freight of the product before it finally ends up in your shopping cart, hundreds or even thousands of miles from where it was harvested.
There are two common excuses for supermarket living.
a. I can’t afford to eat locally.
b. I don’t have time to eat locally.
Pshaw, I say! Pshaw to both! Yes, it can be a bit more costly to eat local. But how can you afford not to? So much is at stake… your health, the quality of your foods, the future of our environment, the future of your local agricultural community.
And yes, supermarkets are convenient. As The Good says, “I’m all for saving the world, as long as it’s convenient for me and my family.” Well, if saving the world was easy, we’d be saved already, wouldn’t we? There are options available in some communities that could SAVE you time and gas… namely, CSA: community supported agriculture. You can buy a share in a local farm’s crops. Each week, you can receive a box full of fun, fresh, locally harvested fruits and/or vegetables. Some CSAs will even deliver the share to your door, saving you the inconveniencee of a trip to the supermarket. If CSAs are not available in your community, check to see if you can find a local farmer’s market. Farmer’s markets take just as much time from your day as supermarkets, plus the produce often lasts longer in the fridge because it’s fresher. Plus, you have a dialog and relationship with the folks who bring the food to your table. They can give you tips on how to store and prepare an item. They can tell you just how it was grown (conventionally, without pesticides, or certified organically). They can tell you when it was harvested (most often their answer will be “yesterday”). At my Saturday’s farmer’s market, I can find much more than fruits and vegetables. We also have nuts, plants, cut flowers, herbs, honey, eggs, preserves, tea, milk, cheese, grass fed beef, and more.
So anyways… back to the challenge at hand. Today I hit the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market in the SLO Promenade. This is the more modest of the two SLO farmer’s markets. Thursday night’s is truly a community event: 6 blocks of farms’ bounties, restaurant stands, local artisans and crafsmen, SLOPD and SLOFD, religious and political activists, local musicians and puppet shows. The crowds are too much for me, so I wuss out and opt to set the alarm for an earliesh Saturday Morning at the milder-mannered, food focused market.
My purchases today: local, free range eggs, fava beans, shallots, red onions, green garlic, golden beets, shitake mushrooms, English Cucumber, turnips, nectarine jam (yum), and BEANS! I found beans in SLO county! Grown in Los Osos! I bought garbanzo, pink, white, and mixed. I was thrilled with my find. So now I’ve got to find some goat cheeese! Please, someone in SLO county, milk some goats!
I have to admit I’m a bit scared for this month. Okay, more than a bit. I know it won’t be easy. And to be honest, I don’t know if I can do it. But I do love a challenge, so once the guantlet was thrown…. hook line and sinker, I was in.
Any other takers want to give it a go? If eating totally local is not your gig, how bout making small local changes? Investigate within your community. Try to switch one or two of your sustenance staples to something harvested or produced locally. Give it a go on a smaller level. You may be surprised at how easy and flavorful eating locally can be!