Look Out, Here Come the Localvores

Montello WI Amish FarmAbout 4 states ago, I whined about how I was stunned find out that people in North Dakota didn’t have fresh local lettuce all year long. Silly, spoiled native Californian. Getting out and into the real U.S. has opened my eyes.

As a lacto-ovo vegetarian since 1989, I always tried to live by the creed “Eat / Buy / Act Locally.” And when living in California, abiding by it was easy. I never gave much thought to those organic hearts of Romaine I’d buy in December. Even though I was paying as much as $3.00 a bunch, the lettuce was organic, and it was “local” because it grew in my own state, so it didn’t travel that far. During summer, as I bought salad greens at the Farmer’s Market each week, I was mentally adding up my bonus karma points. Score! How much more local and hippy dippy could I get? My, did I feel righteous at the checkout line!

Montello WI Amish FarmBut lately while listening to the Barbara Kingsolver audio book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I’ve realized that I’ve only scratched the surface of the living local creed, and I’m learning what it really takes to walk the local talk. I’m discovering more than I ever thought possible about how my food choices — even if they are organic and meat free — affect so many, and so much of our world.

Today we stopped at a tiny grocery / gas / sporting goods store in Meredith, Michigan. We’re out of lettuce, so I asked if they had some. They sure did. Iceburg lettuce. I took it out of the cooler to buy it. Then Jim and I saw the label; “Packaged in Salinas, CA.” Salinas! Worse than the zero nutrients in iceburg, was the knowledge of how much oil it took to get that wilted vegetable to the cooler shelf. I put it back, and rather than feel deprived, I instead went back into our refrigerator to make the most of seasonal vegetables we had in the fridge.

Whitefish Point, MI eggplant dinnerWe had a healthy, gourmet Asian dinner with Japaneese eggplant and cabbage I bought from a farmer in Wisconsin, a bell pepper from our friends Sherry and Dave, snow peas (not local) that I couldn’t live without from a supermarket, and glass noodles (not local). We used Hoisin Sauce, obviously not local. But it was a 50/50 meal. The point is, to try and eat locally as much as possible. If made into a habit, a bunch of little steps can bring about monumental changes.

Before the Kingsolver book I didn’t really understand the Vegetannual — the natural order of when and what vegetables grow throughout the year. Some wannabe farmer I am. I was raised on a global food economy that allowed me to buy what produce I wanted, whenever I wanted it. And even if that New Zealand Kiwi that I bought in July was bland and unripened, I could have it if I wanted it. Kingsolver asks; what’s the point, if this fruit doesn’t even come close to what it’s really supposed to taste like in all its glory?

Produce Farm, Colby WIThis book, however, has taught me to respect the seasons for the vegetables that they bring to our table, to celebrate each one as they abundantly appear, know and appreciate their true flavors when they’re at their peak (what does an in season Kiwi actually taste like?), and honor their time frame.

Buy purchasing out of season vegetables from faraway places, I’m going against the natural order of things, and contributing to environmental destruction too.

A quick way to improve food-related fuel economy would be to buy a quart of motor oil and drink it. More palatable options are available. If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That’s not gallons, but barrels. Small changes in buying habits can make big differences. Becoming a less energy-dependent nation may just need to start with a good breakfast.

 

Steven L. Hopp, Co-Author, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Don’t worry, I’m not getting on my soapbox and trying to convert you to a meatless diet (although Jim would say otherwise). What I am saying is that by making some small changes at the grocery stores, you will not only be healthier and more appreciative of seasonal foods, but you’ll also score big karma points for doing your part to help the planet.

So get started. Here are some shop local / food websites you can use to try to find local products:

Local Harvest

FoodRoutes – Where Does Your Food Come From?

Sustainable Table

Slow Food U.S.A.

Montello WI Amish Farm

 

 

7 Responses to “Look Out, Here Come the Localvores”

  1. Diqui, that is a great story about CR’s tomatoes. I felt that way at the supermarket yesterday, when I saw they had melons shipped in from who knows where, and right down the street there are farmers trying to unload theirs. Insane!

    The bottled water thing is a great point. And if anyone knows about germs and microbes and stuff, it’s you, Ms. Scientist! I didn’t know that about Aquafina, thanks. I use a Brita, and can vouch for it getting rid of bad tastes, especially like the kind we get at places like where we are now, a campground on seriously rusty/sulfury well water out in the country.

  2. Hurrah for championing “eat local”! I was thinking about that at CR on Thursday, when the tomatoes available at the salad bar were mealy and pink. It’s the end of summer–peak tomato time around here. AND CR owns an organic farm! Why on Earth were the veggie choices at the salad bar so obviously from SYSCO food service?!

    Here’s something else to rant about: bottled water. Some people who drink it claim to want “better” water. Or that the prefer the taste of it to tap water. How many of them stop to consider how many barrels of oil were burned to truck *water* across the state/country? Last month, the Pepsi corporation had to change its label to reveal that Aquafina is “TAP WATER”.

    Others feel that their muicipal water supply isn’t as safe as bottled water. While I can’t say that is never true, at least there are strict regulations in place for the quality of municipal water supplies. There are shockingly few regulations governing the purity of bottled water.

    Lastly (and I can agree with this reason), many people just don’t like the taste of tap water, especially the chlorination. Well, chlorination is what kills all the nasty bacteria and inactivates all the viruses that are small enough to get through the filtration process (and bottled water is neither filtered nor chlorinated). It’s quite easy to get rid of “that funny taste” in your tap water. Buy a Britta filter water pitcher or install a filter on your tap. Yes, the filters do need to be replaced, but that’s still a LOT less waste than the gasoline used to truck water that is of no better quality across great distances.

  3. que cosa es “karma?

  4. Mike and Cindi August 24, 2007 at 11:29 am Reply

    excellent piece and resource links..thanks…that statement from Hopp’s book will go into my own ‘food for thought’ quote bank for my signature tag on future correspondence…

    Mike

  5. You know Rene, your new adopted philosophy of buy local can be applied to almost everything in our lives. All this usage of buying things on the internet and having hem shipped from here to there all adds to our overal fuel consumption and general traffic problems.

    As you are traveling through these small towns, isn’t it nice to be buying from and supporting the local shops? There is where you get the personal service, the tidbit of gossip, the local flavor of things. By supporting our local economies, we contribute to the overall health of our communities.

    So whether you are buying your vegetables or meats (butchers have families to support too!) locally, or going to the local hardware store to have a key made instead of Home Depot, or any local commerce. I think it is all good Karma, and we should all buy local, and screw the importers and cross country shippers, and support you rlocal purveyor!!

  6. Great entry! It wasn’t until 3 years ago that I grasped the concept of eating seasonally. Or that apples didn’t always come from the U.S. Or how far any food traveled…it’s all a new thing. It’s amazing how far food does travel to get to our plates. Tonight we had supper with my mom at Panera…and the tomatoes were horrible. Unripe. Hard. But it’s the middle of prime tomato season here. I know this because the Farmer’s Market it overflowing with beautiful, heirloom, organic tomatoes. But Panera, apparently buys them from Sysco while they are still green and passes them off as food. So sad!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. farmer's market - September 12, 2007

    farmer’s market…

    I Googled for something completely different, but found your page…and have to say thanks. nice read….

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