Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Locavore

Locavore was the 2007 word of the year for the Oxford American Dictionary. A locavore is someone who eats food grown or produced in his or her local economy. After reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Guy and I have been making efforts to change our eating habits.

The globalization of our food supply now means that that the average distance our food travels is 1,500 miles. Precious fuel is used in transporting, refrigerating and processing these foods. If every citizen in the U.S. were to eat one local meal per week, we would reduce our oil consumption by 1.1 million barrels per week.

Food grown elsewhere means that the money spent on it leaves our community. Food bought locally triples the income for our local economy. Not to mention the longer the food travels, the more flavor is lost. Tomatoes in January are just disgusting. Eat foods that are in season, eliminate prepared and processed foods, and embrace slow foods, made exactly to your own personal preferences.

Greenbelt has a fabulous new farmer’s market that we visit every week, before doing any of our regular grocery shopping. Everything is grown or produced within 100 miles of Greenbelt. They even have ice cream! No farmer’s market near you? Get a CSA subscription, or if in Maryland, check out our new virtual farmer’s market at http://foodtrader.org/.

Inspired by the book, we started making our own cheese. We found that at the local chain, MOM’s, we can buy organic milk that is produced in nearby Pennsylvania and is not ultra-pasteurized (the ultra-pasteurized milk usually found at the grocery store can no longer be used to make cheese). So far we have just been making mozzarella, but we hope to expand soon. We have a new bread recipe that uses some of the leftover whey. The bread is light, tasty and firm, it is excellent for our regular sliced bread needs. We do our best to drink our own homebrewed beer, though we are going to have to look into local ingredients. We did just get a hand-me-down grain mill!

In previous years, we have hauled away our leaves and garden waste to the city’s composting facility where it is shredded and composted. In the spring we haul it back for mulch. It is not a very efficient process. We have started composting, and we are planning a larger garden for next year. We are considering buying local, in season produce and preserving it for the winter by drying, freezing or canning. When I buy prepared foods like salsa or spaghetti sauce, I select based on the closest factory. So far, we have been buying Linnea locally grown peaches or tomatoes to eat instead of the bananas we used to feed her. I can’t bring myself to give up chocolate, yet.

Obviously living off our land is not going to happen, since we only have about 10x10 feet of partial sun, and not much more shade, but every bit makes a difference. Whole Foods and even Walmart have made efforts to provide their consumers with local produce. So far, we like the movement. Our locavore efforts have improved the quality of our diet, reduced our carbon footprint and strengthened our neighborhood economy.

9 comments:

Lynnis said...

Fantastic article! I have only been a true locavore a few times this year: a few Dickensian meals composed of turnips and potatoes from my own garden. I think you should take advantage of your limited space to grow potato towers. Maybe I will write a 'how to' on it. I hear that eat honey from local bees really boosts your immune system.

Lona said...

Well, last year I worked hard to create a palatable acorn recipe, without much success.

Gordon said...

Ordinarily, I'm skeptical of trendy movements, but "locavore" sounds like a good sound idea. Jon has been doing it a long time.

I can't remember who said it, perhaps Wendell Berry, but someone in "Organic Farming" magazine, as I recall, said something to the effect:

If you want to be happy for a year. Get married. If you want to be happy for 15 years, get a dog. If you want to be happy the rest of your life, start a garden.

There is a lot of satisfaction in seeing an effort come to literal fruition.

Hallie Jo said...

I was going to say that Walmart is doing that, but I see you mention it at the end. I heard about it on the radio, but I believe there was some debate to whether or not Walmart is really "going local" since they still transport a lot of their products far--just not as far.
The only thing we have is tomatoes. We have four plants...the raccoons like to eat our two heirloom tomatoes (Green zebra and German something) then we have regular and cherry tomatoes. Oh, and we also have lots of herbs growing that my dad planted.

Lynnis said...

checking the distribution centers on packaged food is something I hadn't though of before. Thanks for the tip!

Emily said...

What a great thread (and thank you to Lona for pointing out all of the family blogging that I was missing)! I'm really glad to hear that there is some sort of local dairy available there now. We have been workig on eating locally for a while, too. For the past 5 years or so we've had home delivered milk from a local dairy, and during the summer we've got good local produce (and there's LOTS of local beer here). I've been struggling to figure out the good winter local food supply here. I'm pretty sure that going non-vegetarian would help out, as there is a fair amount of local meet, but I'm not sure for the long run if that would work. I do agree, Lynnis that local honey is a good idea. I've heard that it helps a lot with allergy issues (and it's really important to support local honey bee populations for lots of other polination). We have local Boulder wheat now, too. It is pretty gritty and hard to bake with in my opinion, though.

As for Gordon's quote, I think the best must be marrying someone who is willing to start a garden :)

Piri Jenkins said...

Local honey is one of the things available at our farmers market. We use some of it in our bread.

Gordon said...

It is too bad Greenbelt doesn't allow you to keep bees. The cause of bee die off has been discovered. It turns out to be due to a pesticide.

Piri Jenkins said...

I believe beekeeping is allowed in Greenbelt, just not inside the co-op. It seems like it would be too hard to keep Linnea away from the hive in such a small yard anyway. I am glad to hear they are on track to fix the bee problem. I have seen quite a few bees buzzing around my next door neighbor's lavender. Perhaps we all just need to give them a little help and get some of their favorite plants.