Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Eating locally

Rather than share a recipe today (Kristen and I were obviously on the same wavelength this week), I wanted to talk to you about something that I have become somewhat passionate about.

Eating locally. That is, choosing to eat food from my local foodshed. A term has been coined, even, to identify people that are striving to eat locally: locavore. Isn't that a great word?

Local eating isn't entirely a new concept to me. I've heard about it from time to time in the past but, if I'm being completely honest, the people that were talking about it weren't anything like me. These were people who lived more rurally, or who were already into all things organic. In some ways, they struck me as modern-day hippies.

I'm a typical suburban housewife with a minivan and two kids, one of whom will probably eventually play soccer. Eating locally, and how I could be part of this movement, just didn't hit me.

That all changed when I began reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I was inspired to read the book after watching the documentary Food, Inc., and deciding that I wanted to switch to completely organic produce as well as avoid foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The documentary as well as the book were very eye-opening to me. I have no farming roots, my parents never planted a vegetable garden, I know next-to-nothing about growing my own food. It was shocking to learn how large corporations have taken over farming, rendering small family farms nearly obsolete.

And, as is all too often the case, when large corporations take over anything - profit becomes the driving force. Squeezing as many rows of corn as possible onto every acre. Breeding the so-called "perfect" tomato that can withstand long-distance transportation and also fit neatly into a case pack, and can be available year-round (devoid of all taste in my opinion).

Eating local food has many benefits - not just to us, the consumer, but also the local economy. Here are just a few:

Eating locally is the best way to know the source of your food. A quick review of the frozen food section at your local grocer will reveal broccoli and peas (just to name a few) that are grown outside of our borders. Broccoli flown to my supercenter on a jet plane from China? No thanks.

When you eat locally, whether by joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or shopping local farmers market, you can get to know the person who is growing and caring for the food you are putting your body.

Local food is fresher and also tastes better. Commercially produced vegetables and fruits have to be able to withstand a long, oil-fueled commute to the supermarket in your area. It has been in transit or cold-stored for weeks. At your local farmers market, the produce you are buying was likely picked during the previous 24 hours.

Additionally, because the foods are purchased in season, they are at their peak taste, available in abundance and are the least expensive.

Eating local supports your local economy. Yes, there is chance you will spend a little bit more than at your local mega supercenter, but the dollars go directly in the hands of local farmers who are not only supporting families, but they are keeping pasture land open and undeveloped.

The benefits don't stop there, though. Shopping locally allows for greater variety for consumers, healthier and fresher food, and unique products.

Eating local isn't just for produce either. In nearly every community you can find pasture-raised, antibiotic-free beef, pork, chicken, dairy and eggs. Click here to learn more about the benefits of eating pasture-raised meat and dairy.

There are a variety of ways one can find local food in your community. In my town, the newspaper lists the farmers markets every weekend. You can also visit Local Harvest to find locally grown products.

For our part, we have decided to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). We pay a fee which buys us a share of the farm. That share entitles us to 18 weeks of fresh produce, approximately enough to feed our family. The CSA uses organic farming standards, and with our membership we are able to buy fresh chicken and eggs.

It's going to be a big challenge, to be honest. I am going to be getting a LOT of vegetables week after week after week that are going to be completely new to me. I didn't grow up loving a variety of vegetables, and have very little experience with fresh vegetables outside of a dinner salad. We're talking a steep learning curve.

Fortunately, there are many great resources out there. And I plan to use this blog to share my trials and hopefully solicit suggestions for what else can I do with another head of cabbage.

I'm curious: do you shop farmers markets or do you belong to a CSA? I would love to hear your experience!


  1. We have some great farmers markets. I have chosen the farmers markets over the CSA because I pick and choose what I want and the locations are super convenient. The CSA has the advantage of forced variety and I believe we have one here that is year round, unlike the farmers markets which are typicall closed from June-September. I have not heard of a farm we can participate in for meats and eggs, but there is a local store here that offers truly all natural products. The cost is a bit prohibitive, but I should get out a handy-dandy spreadsheet and really make the comparison to determine if we can do it. Hmmmm, thanks for making me think. :)

  2. I have actually found that buying directly from local farms is a bit cheaper. I probably miss out on some variety but I can live with that when I compare prices. We started our own version of the 100 mile diet last March. Nearly a year into it and I feel like I've gotten the hang of it. The winter months have been. ... interesting! It has been fun and we've all learned a lot. When my kids ask for something in the grocery store now they know to also ask: Is this in season, mom?

  3. Interesting... most of our local grown foods are shipped out of state or were frozen. There is a "farmer's market" near my supermarket and it has all boxes from being imported. End of my being pushed around. I bought some veggies at Whole Foods and truthfully the brussel sprouts that I bought at our supermarket were far superior. Granted I am not bringing up children, nor have I ever, I am 71 live alone and I have mercury fillings from childhood and I could go on and on. I will try to search out a real farmers market but I am in FL where all the farms around here were built on. I do eat at Sweet Tomatoes a lot! (G)
    I did enjoy the farmers' market and flea market you took me to but there just s nothing like that near here.

    I truly hope you all succeed.