local food

surprising struggle to eat local

Despite all the advantages I perceived that I had when beginning the Penny-Wise Eat Local Challenge, the whole thing has proven to be very difficult. Much more so than I had imagined, and I’ve learned quite a deal about the reality of our food system. (Which I knew about already but thought I had somewhat escaped). I guess by my standards I was NOT successful in eating local. I wound up eating those Farmer’s Market avocados that came from over 100 miles away. The other things that I failed on where organic corn chips and black beans (which could be grown within the 100 miles radius but most likely were not.) I did keep in budget with the food, although it was a struggle. I went over budget on beer, (the local Lagunitas IPA) because like I said, in my house beer is a food. I mostly ate grilled cheese sandwiches as mentioned in my previous entry. I had this for dinner nearly every night, with Strauss butter, Spring Hill cheese, and Alvarado Street bread. — all local products. I did however, find out that the “organic” Alvarado Street bread contains non-organic soy lecithin, which I can only assume is GMO (genetically modified.) Of all things to try to avoid in your diet and in our food system, I argue that GMO’s are it. And I was unknowingly eating it. I also just came across an article at the Weston A Price foundation about soy lecithin: http://www.westonaprice.org/soy/lecithin.html.

During my challenge, besides really yummy grilled cheese sandwiches, I also ate a lot of Strauss yogurt, stinging nettle (I would even put the nettle on my grilled cheese sandwiches), and local organic eggs. I did use a few non-local condiments such as mayonnaise for egg salad. I also broke down during the week and resumed my morning habit of drinking yerba mate’. (Decidely not local.) I began the week drinking homegrown green tea, but that quickly ran out. I recently purchased a Yaupon holly, a close relative of yerba mate’ that can contains caffeine and similar healthful properties. My plant however is a small seedling, and it will probably be quite some time before I can get any harvest from this. Check back into this blog for a video about local caffeine.

I could have eaten completely local if I had to, although I would not have gotten the calories and nutrition I regularly require. I could have eaten lots of greens and milk and yogurt and gone hungry, or benefited from the fasting/cleansing of the whole process. But that wasn’t what I wanted to get from this challenge. I wanted to see how I am in my life now, using the challenge to measure my progress (as I already aim to eat local only.) Overall, I guess I did okay. The thing that I am pleased about the most is that everything in my diet could be locally grown. I didn’t live on tropical foods or out of season fruits or things that really don’t grow here. In fact, pretty much everything I ate could have been grown in a homesteading situation (for the most part.)

I’ll try to briefly break it down. For the week I ate locally grown:
Organic Strauss butter
Organic Strauss yogurt
Redwood Hill goat yogurt
Organic Spring Hill Cheese
Locally wildcrafted stinging nettle (in sandwiches, egg salad, and lacto-fermented beverages.)
Locally wildcrafted rose hips (in lacto-fermented beverage.)
Locally baked organic bread (although the grains probably grown elsewhere. Wheat can be dry farmed, that is with “no irrigation” here in this part of California.)
Local organic eggs
Semi-local avocados (just over 100 miles away.)
Semi-local organic Lundberg rice (150 miles away)
Salad and asparagus from my garden
Greens from my balcony
Organic Strauss ice cream
Niman Ranch bacon
Local poultry
Lots of beer — local Lagunitas IPA.

Things that were not local:
Organic corn tortilla chips (although made by a local company)
Organic black beans (who knows where they are from.)
Condiments (mayonnaise, curry powder, sea salt)
Yerba mate’
Agave syrup for lacto fermented beverages (although this could have been made with local honey, I just couldn’t find any this week.)

Of course, there are so many ways to go about this challenge. What if I looked at the packaging that the food comes in? Where was it made? What resources were exploited in order to produce it? Even the beer bottles — where were the materials gathered that were used to make the glass? Where were they made? Where do the farm inputs come from that allows the food to grow? The water that I cooked with comes from over 100 miles away. Looking at it economically, where is the money generated that makes these food transactions possible?
All in all, the Penny-Wise Eat Local Challenge was a good experience, forcing me to really look at my food and the economy that is completely out of balance with a locavore’s goals. Imagine if legislation such as the Farm Bill were to give encouragement for local food production rather than wasteful export driven exploitation?
What would be the repercussions of this?
Check out Michael Pollan’s article at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/22/magazine/22wwlnlede.t.html?ex=1178251200&en=e287785d15206f07&ei=5070&emc=eta1

I found myself during the past several weeks pretty much wanting to eat eggs, dairy, and stinging nettle non-stop. I keep dreaming of getting my own chickens and milking my own goats. When thinking about this, I realized that all these things are in season right now; it’s the time of year when the chickens are starting to lay and the green grass is ripe for the grazing by milking animals. Stinging nettle can be harvested right now. I felt relief when I thought about this; my body’s cravings are in rhythm with the place around me. I can’t imagine craving grapes or tomatoes right now, which apparently people eat this time of year without hesitation (of course imported from far away.) They sound unappealing to me. So coming from an alienated, out of balance suburban way of life, I guess I am making some progress. If I could only remember to plant seeds by the moon cycle.