Usually, when I hear or take part in discussions about diets and their impact on our environment, the conversation rapidly opposes veganism and omnivorism.
On my journey to living more sustainably, I constantly go back and forth between the idea of becoming a vegan and my current semi-vegerianism, aka flexitarianism.
I very rarely eat meat, buy a yearly wild salmon share and enjoy seafood when traveling on the coast. I don't drink milk, but I love cheese. Then there's leather, honey, beewswax. I learn and question the status quo constantly.
But two books I read recently have shifted my way of approching the subject, or, better said, added a layer to the dialogue happening in my head.
One is Dandelion Hunter, by Rebecca Lerner, and the other one Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver.
The first one follows the quest of a forager in the city of Portland, Oregon, who tries to survive off wild plants from the streets and parks near her home.
The second one tells the story of a family who abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life—vowing that, for one year, they’d only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it.
What if the most sustainable diet was to eat mindfully and locally grown food?
Photo by Eva Kosmas Flores
Three years ago, a couple weeks after I first moved to Portland, I had a late summer supper at a farm in the shadow of Mount Hood.
Not only did I make new friends during that dinner, but I also fell in love with Andrea and Taylor, the owners Tumbleweed farm and quickly signed up for their CSA share.
Community Supported Agriculture is a great way to support your farmers and experience the local growing season. CSA is the backbone of a number of farms. Members share the risks and rewards inherent in responsible food production. Each week, for a certain period of time, they pick up a box of fresh, clean, local and seasonal produce grown right in their region.
Think you live in a food desert? A study reveals that 90 percent of U.S. could eat food grown or raised within 100 miles of their homes, helping economy and making agriculture more sustainable.
Tumbleweed's CSA has a major perk: weekly recipe suggestions coming for Andrea's own blog/farm diary.
Though I'm not a member of the CSA any more (the pick-up location was a little bit of a drive for us), I still regularly check in on the blog and ultimately snatched a copy of Andrea's book, Dishing up the Dirt which I tirelessly get back to (my favorite recipe: the Beet Butter, p.84).
The Local Thirty
Last May, Andrea published this article. I did not know that my admiration for her could not grow any bigger, but it instantly did! On a quest to connect on a deeper level with her food and the people who produce it, she decided that, for the 30 days of September, she was going to source all of her ingredients from a 200-mile radius of where she lives. This challenge is named The Local Thirty.
Why is it important to eat locally grown food?
I don't know about you, but I don't know where half of the food I consume comes from. I purchase it at my local coop, and trust their sourcing system, but I rarely dive deeper (in which farm was it grown? who picked it?).
More freshness, seasonal products, new flavors, less contamination
Lower carbon footprint, less travel, less waste, crop rotation
Supports local farms, boosts local economy, fosters community, supports responsible land development, promotes variety
Photo by Eva Kosmas Flores
Tips for a successful Local Thirty Challenge
Find local resources
- Look for a local food blogger
- Visit your farmers market and strike a conversation with farmers and makers
- Check out a small coop and check the labels, ask an employee for help and tips
- Learn how to make something yourself
Don't hate me, I live in Andrea's area so she's pretty much done the work for me. You can find her local and national resources at the end of this article.
Have a cheat sheet
Don't make yourself miserable, the idea is indeed to learn something new, but mostly to have fun during the process.
If you feel like you cannot survive without your morning cup of coffee, put it on your cheat sheet!
I still have some research to do to see which products I'm going to find an alternative for but can already feel that olive or coconut oil will be on my list.
The best way to suceed is to plan ahead. You do not want to wake up the first morning, open your cupboard and realize that all the ingredients are coming from the other side of the planet.
Meal planning, meal prepping, batch cooking, food preserving are all great ways to kickstart your adventure!
Write a shopping list, clear your schedule for an afternoon, and prep those meals!
I'm thinking about going to the kitchen library and checking out the dehydrator and canning equipment, wish me luck!
Don't do it alone
Enroll your partner, kids, friends in the challenge, prep your meals, swap them, go to the farmers market together and follow the #LocalThirty on social media to find your community.
I'm meeting with 2 girlfriends today to start a Vegan Cheese Club and am planning to pick their brain on the subject and inspire/beg them to join the challenge with me.
For more inspiration, check out Andrea and Megan's plans (and cheat sheets).
Are you ready to accept the challenge? Where do you live? Who will be your local inspiration for resources and recipes?