March 7, 2011

Don’t You Know I’m Local?!

Let’s all go Local…


a f*in crazy/insane person


one who eats only locally grown foods

Becoming a localvore may sound kinda crazy, but for the sake of mother earth, the trend needs to gain steam. By eating locally we can begin healing ourselves and our planet.   It starts with a commitment and small changes. Then, like any habit, over time it becomes just another part of daily life.

The Great Law of the Iroquois (a confederation of Native American tribes living near Lake Ontario) reads:  In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation…even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine. In other words, in every decision we make we must consider the consequences for future generations. The way we eat and how we eat now doesn’t just affect our own health, but the health of generations to come.

Join me in becoming a localvore for the month of June. Vow to eat, as much as possible, grub that originates within 175 miles of your own friendly adobe. Vow to choose organic when possible. Here in western Pennsylvania, there are hundreds of fruits, veggies, and herbs to choose from locally. Just to name a few:  Apples, Arugula, Asparagus, Blackberries, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Eggplant, Fennel, Garlic, Herbs, Kale, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Nectarines, Onions, Peaches, Pears, Potatoes, Raspberries, Spinach, Squash, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Watermelons, and Zucchini.

If you get in a bind, choose a peach from Georgia instead of a kiwi from New Zealand. The idea is not to be perfect, but to be aware of the choices you make and practice mindful eating.

I’ve got a family of six–lots of mouths to feed—and I plan to involve them as much as possible.   Here’s my strategy:

Step 1 – Local Farmers

I’m signed up again with two local CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). My faves here in Pittsburgh are Kretschmann Organic Farm (an old school, overall-wearing farm) and the new farmer on the block, helping CSA’s go mainstream, hip, cool, and tech-savy Isidore Foods (which also serves neighboring Cleveland and Columbus). These farmers rock! They love what they do and they are passionate about their farms.  Each week along with delivering a boatload of veggies, they provide you with recipes too! The farmers at Kretchmann even tell you about the happenings at the farm that week. Find these guys and gals in your area and support them! You may think CSAs are expensive, but my informal research suggests that isn’t necessarily the case. Sure, you’re plunking down the cash for your veggies all at once, but the difference between subscribing to a CSA and shopping weekly at the grocery store is minimal to moderate.

“Our prices, depending on the product, may run 1-20% more than the same product at a local grocery store. The reason our prices may be higher is due to where we purchase our food. Our food only comes from local farms, not from nameless farms in different time zones and countries.  Since we know our farmers, 60 cents of every dollar you spend with us goes back directly to them. At the grocery store, nameless farmers are lucky to see 20 cents for every dollar spent. Here at Isidore Foods we think paying farmers a livable wage is a responsible thing to do.”   – David Eson of Isidore Foods

For an idea of the true costs of subscribing to a CSA, check this out from the University of Wisconsin:

Another option is of course your local Farmer’s Markets.

Even in the northeast and mid-Atlantic we can get fresh food locally for at least 6 months out of the year. Check out this slick seasonal chart from Farmer Don Kretschmann. Plenty to choose from for everyone’s taste! And don’t worry about your grains. There are plenty of Amish farmers in Pennsylvania and Ohio that work with CSA’s.

Step 2 – An Urban Veggie Garden

Do your best with the space you have. Anyone can take care of a garden just by nurturing it and giving it love. (I planted a Giant Red Sequoia tree 5 years ago. It’s thriving because I love Red–that’s the tree’s name—but I can’t eat the tree, so let’s get back to local foods. . .) We live in Pittsburgh and I’m planting a killer garden in my backyard this spring. You will save money with by starting your own garden and nothing is better than putting food on your table that came straight from your own land! If a garden in your own yard is out of the question, find a Community Garden nearby.

Step 3 – Eating Out Smart

Before you eat out, do some quick research to find out who is cooking local. As evidenced by the NY Times, the options are growing like rhubarb here in Pittsburgh. Find a website or blog that lists local-friendly restaurants.

Step 4 – A Crutch

While not necessary, for me it’s the raft that will keep me afloat: a juicer. I’ve decided to make the lifetime investment in a made in the USA Vitamix.  They go for a whopping $400. But the word on the street is that these things are beasts when it comes to customizing your own Odwallas or Nakeds. If the cost seems high, consider that we average Americans consume 300 more calories than we need each day.  By focusing on whole foods though, our intake goes down and we spend less. For some of us, $400 is equivalent to just 3 months worth of Starbucks. A frozen pizza goes for $8.99 while a bunch of organic kale goes for just $2.49. I may get crazy and host a juice party: Kale and Pear Smoothies all around.

Step 5 – For Wine Lovers

Vino. Ahhh yes, vino. I plan to keep it in the mix in moderate amounts. There’s no Sonoma here, no Napa, no Willamette Valley.  Wines from gorgeous Northeast PA and upstate New York will be my choice.

Step 6 – Cookbooks on the Ready

My personal favorites:  “I am Grateful” and “Rancho la Puerto.” Make cooking fun. Jam some tunes, and if you have kids, get them involved.

Step 7 – Fruit 24/7

Get a big a$$ Bowl and overfill it with local fruit. Let it sit out all day and use that to satisfy any snacking urges. When you shop you may find that the “pantry” type foods may have to hit the bricks. Look for local grains. If sweeteners are needed, local raw honey should be easy to find, and of course local breads, no problemo.

Why are we doing this?

  1. For the planet – Less fossil fuels used in transportation and packing. The majority of food consumed in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles from farm to table. By consuming more local fruit and veggies and reducing our meat consumption, we can reduce the amount of methane released into the atmosphere. (More methane is produced by factory farming in America than the transportation worldwide!!!!)
  2. Supports the local economy and local farmers – local farmers get slighted by the US Government. Most federal money goes to farmers using GMO’s on factory farms.
  3. Local foods are healthier and safer—less processed, with few or no preservatives. It’s real food! They taste delicious! Local veggies that come from untreated, unmodified seeds. By eating fresh local foods, we can reduce our risk of obesity, cancer, and other diseases connected to fake foods or foods carrying harmful pesticides. Organic foods contain more essential nutrients than conventional foods.

Good luck! Gotta go. I’m getting hungry now….

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