Monday, August 9, 2010

Locavore stories

Our Going Locavore group wants to expand and support our local food movement, and we have a plethora of ideas from our brainstorming session. But.... which ones would be the best investment of our time/attention/money? Which ones would have the greatest effect?

One of the ideas that evolved from our meeting last month was to sponsor a "Transition to Ten" percent local food purchases, similar to this challenge sponsored by Transition Colorado. I also like the 80/20 challenge, sponsored by a Transition group in Britain, which promotes buying 80% local and 20% organic and fair trade - for both local food security and international solidarity. That one may be too ambitious for us, though.

When I think about my own (partial) transition to local food, I realize that it took me several years just to increase our percentage to 15 - 30% local food (eggs, beef, in-season fruits and vegetables, wheat flour, cheese, yogurt, honey, beer). The main factors in my transition were:
  • an increasing awareness of the importance of local food, (motivation)
  • realizing that many of my friends were dedicated to local food, (social support)
  • expanding my own garden and mini-orchard, (skill/knowledge)
  • learning to preserve some food, (skill/knowledge)
  • learning to eat more seasonally, (skill/knowledge)
  • finding a local source for eggs and beef, (supply) and
  • a much improved farmer's market (supply).
So my question for you is: How much local food do you eat? Is there something that encouraged, inspired, or supported you to make the transition to eating locally? What did you have to do to make the transition?


MN_homesteader said...

When we lived in MN, it was much easier to be a locavore than in it is Colorado. We have tons of farmers markets, etc, but the number of coops is much smaller and the stores seem to be less concerned with supporting local farmers, etc.
In Frith,

Wendy said...

Depending on the time of year, our diet is between 30% and 85% local. All of our eggs, all meat, and all diary are local - all year long. Occasionally, we buy something like oranges or cherries (when they're in season somewhere here in the US), but otherwise, all of our produce is local and we do a lot of bulk buying, wild foraging, gardening and canning during the summer so that we can have local produce during the winter, but Maine has a very limited growing season and a very long winter, and we've come up short a couple of times.

As to what motivated us the most, it was probably the Eat Local challenges, which forced us to be accountable for having a local meal each week. With each challenge we found it easier and easier to have that all local meal, even down to the seasonings and sweetners we used.

We aren't all local, because we're still heavily dependent on grains, and we enjoy the "Marco Polo" foods like sugar, coffee, and tea. But as we transition to a gluten-free diet, we're finding it easier to make our food local, if our beverages of choice often aren't :).

Kate said...

I guess my question is, how are we measuring local vs. non-local. What are the units? Calories? Dollars spent? Volume? Or weight? I've been trying to figure out how I would even begin to keep records, but it's pretty tough to do when I don't even know how to record things.

By the measure of consumed dollar value, I'd say we're more than 50% locavore. Almost all our meat is local, and we grow most of our own fruit and veg. I also pick locally in season. But as for's a tough call. Most of our fats are not local, and they account for a huge number of calories. I buy organic cream, butter, cooking oil, and olive oil. If you took away those things we'd still have plenty of meat and veg, but it would be tough to cook them without fats. And few of our grains are local either, except for the popcorn we grow.

The big obvious things - fruit, veg, meat, dairy, and even grain - are easy to get a grasp on. Either you find and buy them locally, or you don't/can't. But then comes a finer examination of diet, in which you must really consider all the things you add to those basic foodstuffs before you end up eating them. Spices, fats, soy sauce, vinegars, other seasonings, alcohol, the odd pound of tea or coffee, etc.

I think someone needs to propose a sensible way of actually measuring this situation. If you grow all your own veg/fruit and get your meat/dairy/grain locally, but buy in all of the stuff mentioned above, how do you evaluate to what degree you're eating locally?

Aimee said...

My family eats about 50% locally (very locally - off the farm) in the summer and less than that in the winter. We produce our own meat year round, or buy it from our near neighbors. Chicken is the exception. But we also produce all our own eggs, milk, and cheese for about five months of the year, and just eat less of those things the rest of the year. I do plant a vegetable garden, but I SUCK so mostly I trade for veggies or shop at the local farmers market. We also visit the U-pick farms a LOT as this is a great cheap way to get quality food. I do some canning, not a whole lot, and lots of freezing. Things which are never local are wheat, rice, other staple grains, and coffee.

Sharlene T. said...

I'm not sure there was a specific motivation... seems like I've always had a garden and known local farmers who would sell their livestock... I don't think I planned on being a locavore, it has just happened because I prefer to fix my own foods... I'll have to think on this, some more...

Twitter: SolarChief

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Bravo to all of you! Glad to hear that the Eat Local challenges are motivating....

As for how to measure the % of local food, I have been wondering that myself - by money spent, nutrition, calories? Each one gives a different answer, and I don't have a good stock way to do it - I just have estimated over the months, but have not been able to track well. It would be a good thing to know how other Eat Local challenges calculate this percentage.

The Nurturing Pirate said...

One of my New Year's resolutions was to eat more seasonally. So by default, we are eating more locally too. I haven't quantified it, but would estimate it to be around 10% by weight. An issue for us here in San Diego is that buying local could mean "Hecho en Mexico," I just don't know *where* in Mexico! :-)

Tyrone said...

Sorry to come in so off-topic, but I'm rather new to this grow-your-own thingy.
And before properly starting out, I'd like to know more about something that bugs me: Isn't the air in cities more polluted than the air in rural areas? How would this affect the food you grow in a urban area?

Does anyone here know of any scientific literature on this subject?

Back on topic: how local is local? Does it have to be grown within 10 miles of your home? A 100? 1?
That being said, I do try to eat local but I don't really spend a lot of time tracking my resources. I bake my bread with the flour ground in a local (1/2 mile away) windmill, but I'm not entirely certain where they get their grains from...
And my durn family loves rice. So I buy fair-trade, organic rice, produced very non-locally. Sigh.

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Tyrone - The air can be more polluted in urban areas, but you should be more worried about the soil. If you have a very old house or are in a very old urban area, consider having your soil tested at your local extension office. Some old soils can have elevated levels of things like lead.

That being said, the point is that you can control to a much greater level what is actually going on your growing vegetables, fruits, herbs, if you grow them. Do you know how many herbicides, pesticides, fungicides are put on your food? You do, if you know your farmer or grow your own food.

Congrats for going local. "Local" depends on your foodshed - different places have different areas where they can get different amounts of food. I prefer the target model than absolutely defining a specific area where you can get your food.