Sunday, September 23, 2007

Eating Local

I’ve been reading a lot about "eating local" lately. There is a group called the Locavores based out of San Francisco that issued a challenge (http://www.eatlocalchallenge.com/) to people to eat only local foods for the month of September. On the website are links to blogs from some of the participants. If you care to browse, my favorites the blogs called "Green Lemonade" and "Kale for Sale." The Locavores define local as within 100 miles. There’s a similar group from Vancouver, B.C. doing what they call a 100-Mile Diet and others have made up different "rules."

"Eating Local" folks stress the fact that a grocery store food purchase travels an average of 1500 miles, wasting fuel and becoming less tasty on the way. I don’t have the actual facts and statistics to do the math so I don’t really know if it is better for one truck to carry lots of lettuce for 1500 miles, or for lots of local farmers to carry a little lettuce, say, 15 miles to a farmers’ market. Then customers make an extra round trips since to eat locally, you normally have to go to more than one source for your food. My guess is that eating local uses less gas, but maybe not much.

But no matter, there are a lot of good reasons to eat as local as possible (good for the economy, good for the farmers, good for the environment, good for the community, good for nutrition and taste). I think the point is not really to get all one’s food from a 100 mile radius (although it makes an interesting challenge!), but instead to seek out what is available wherever you live. Locavore graduates report that after the challenge ends, they find that their new shopping habits favor more local foods without even trying.

I’m not ready to commit to a month of eating only local foods and I’m not sure it’s necessary, but I find that I’ve already made changes that favor local foods. We are members of a CSA so all our veggies are local. I’ve quit buying bananas and started buying some of our fruit from u-pick farms. We buy our meat from a meat market that sells local grass-fed beef, not-quite-local pastured chicken and farm fresh eggs. I buy local milk, and, of course, there’s a very local pig in our fridge! It's kind of fun to put together a meal where I know where everything came from.

Does it taste better? Well, the other night we had the first of our new pork chops. I stuffed them with sauted garlic, bell pepper, onion (all from our veggie box) and mushrooms (could have used local, but I couldn’t stomach the price at the farmers’ market). With our stuffed pork chops, we had fresh corn-on-the-cob and string beans from our veggie box. It was the best pork chop meal I’ve ever eaten.

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