Guest post: Gradually Going Local

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. This guest post is from Ami who blogs at Writing: My Life.

I first heard about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) several years ago in a magazine article. I immediately loved the idea of paying a local farmer in exchange for a weekly share in whatever he or she produced. What better way to really know where your food is coming from? Unfortunately, by the time I’d learned about CSA the deadlines to sign up with any of the local farms had passed. I planned to check into it again the next spring, but kept letting those deadlines pass me by.

The desire to start eating more locally kept building, though, as memories of homegrown tomatoes and carrots straight from the garden came back to me. Then, in the spring of last year, I read a book that changed my perspective on food tremendously. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle reacquainted me with the natural order of food. It reminded me that eating a tomato in January (unless it comes from a jar you put up in August) is not natural. It made me take a second look at my banana-eating habits. And it taught me that local eating can be healthy, good for the environment and really flavorful, too.

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I started running into articles on local eating and Community Supported Agriculture everywhere, and I began thinking much more consciously about where my food was coming from. Yet again, I was too late to join a CSA for the year, but I shopped mainly at the farmer’s market that spring, summer and fall. I spent my weekends prepping and cooking fresh produce. I did some freezing and drying to preserve a bit of what I brought home. I even tried growing my own tomatoes, which unfortunately succumbed to the beaks of the pigeons and blackbirds before I could enjoy them. I also did a little local-eating experiment, and I learned a lot about how difficult our current food system and lifestyles can make eating locally.

The difficulty didn’t discourage me, though. I did my best, and this year, I was a little more prepared. I joined that CSA and was at the farmer’s market on opening weekend ready to eat with the seasons again. I got a newer refrigerator, with a freezer that could hold more produce for the winter months. I joined the One Local Summer Challenge, with the goal of eating at least one completely local meal each week. I planted an herb garden in my tiny backyard.

One day I hope to have a garden to tend with berries, squash, peppers, juicy tomatoes and more. But for now, I support my local farmers and try to keep my eating as local as possible. Sure, my behavior hasn’t completely changed. I still spend money at the grocery store and I haven’t started canning and root cellaring yet. And eating local certainly isn’t the easiest eating option. But I feel good knowing that my money is supporting local agriculture. I’m happier knowing the farmer that grows my vegetables at the CSA. I see him regularly when I pick up my share and he sends us a farm and harvest update every week. Even the farmers at the market are open about their growing practices and I’ve come to know several of them by name. These days, I know where my food is grown and I trust that it’s being done with conscious concern for the land and the people who will consume it. Of all the benefits of eating local, I think that’s the best one.

Ami is a technical and freelance writer trying to live a healthier and greener life—and some days she succeeds. Read more about her local eating escapades at Writing: My Life.

12 thoughts on “Guest post: Gradually Going Local”

  1. Eating more locally grown foods is something that I’ve been thinking a lot more about lately. We planted our own garden for the first time this year, and are currently drowning in summer squash. I hear there’s a great chapter on that in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – which is up next on my reading list. I also recommend The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Not entirely focused on the eating local issue, but a truly thoughtful and thought-provoking book.

  2. east end jenn – I just finished reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and I agree that it definitely supported my choice to eat more of a local diet. Yes, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has a great chapter on the abundance of summer squash (including some great zucchini recipes).

    Good for you for taking on the responsibility of a garden! I’m totally jealous. Even if you are drowning in summer squash. 🙂

  3. I am also trying to eat more local foods, although I am not willing to give up tomatoes in January. Because of the lead problem in the city, since contractors are not inclined to follow code regarding lead paint removal, we haven’t been able to grow produce in our yard in several years. But once we move, I have plans for an enormous veggie garden and hope to grow almost all our own produce.

    Since we’ve been eating clean, I find I naturally gravitate towards fresh foods made with the finest of ingredients. It’s really hard not to retch when people talk about how much they love Little Debbies.

    I saw the Kingsolver book in the grocery store and it’s next on my list to read.

  4. Thank you for the book recommendation. This is something that my husband and I have been talking a lot about lately. Unfortuantly we did not plant our own garden this year, but we do have plans to do so next year. We do buy some produce and fruits at a you-pick farm and orchard that’s about an hour drive from where we live. With those items I freeze and can them for use during the winter. But we do need to make bigger changes in the food that we buy.

  5. Reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle changed the way I looked at food as well. After reading the book, I planted lettuce and a tomato plant on my patio. Hopefully next year I will have a more substantial garden!

  6. My mom belongs to a CSA by her in Michigan. I would love to do this in my area, but cannot seem to find any that don’t require a 100 mile or 90 minute drive! Yet my quest will continue!

    I’ve also been trying to eat more locally grown produce and have been to our sorry excuse for a farmer’s market (where I can get pretty much tomatoes, potatoes and beans and that’s about it).

    But every little bit helps!

  7. Great article. We have so many local farms around here. I stop by every now and then but not nearly as often as I should.

    I keep telling my husband we need to shop at the farm that is about two miles up the street from where we live (yeah, that close) but we never do. We have been trying to eat healthier (more fruits and veggies) and spend a ton at the grocery store, yet all we need is right up the street – for less – and it’s supporting our local farmers.

    Thank you for this great “food for thought”. No pun intended (ok, maybe a little).

  8. Isn’t it great to know the people who are growing your food? I don’t belong to a CSA, but I’ve found that after shopping at farmers markets regularly, farmers are starting to invite me out to visit their farms. I was lucky enough to do this recently and absolutely loved the experience of seeing where my food was coming from. There’s an entirely elevated level of trust and appreciation involved. Great post, Ami.

  9. Kayris – I hadn’t even thought about lead here. I don’t have a food garden, other than fresh basil, but have been considering one. Maybe I should get my soil tested???

    Michele – You’re welcome. And it takes baby steps. Do what you can when you can and just keep looking for small ways to increase your local eating.

    Jessica – I hope so, too! But a balcony garden can be just as good. That’s all some people have and they manage to make it work. I’m definitely considering more container gardening next year.

    mimipz5wjj – Could you get a group together in your neighborhood and share CSA pickup responsibilities? Maybe three or four families? That would cut down on the amount of traveling for everyone, but still allow you all access to fresh, local food. And you’re right, every little bit helps!

    Kimberly V. – I only allow myself a trip to the grocery store to supplement what I get at the markets. And some weeks I don’t even need to go. Think of all the money you’ll save! And with a farm so close? You’ll save gas, too!

    Tiffany – It is great to know where my food comes from and who is growing it. That transparency really makes a difference. Thanks!

  10. We have had a CSA share for years and we love it! We are also farmers market junkies and hard-core food co-op shoppers.
    Baby steps to a local focus will go a long way in the end. And tell all your friends, they’ll be glad you did.

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