Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Buy local, you say?

Today marked the end of Anything To Eat in our house and I had to go to the store. We polished off the last bitter parsnips and sweet carrots in a stew last night. The hens are only laying about three eggs a day so the omelette-fried-poached pickings were slim and the pickled eggs are long gone. The kids are sick of pickles and we only have the cucumber variety anyway. The dilly beans and pickled beets never make it past Christmas. We ate the last of the garden/farm tomato sauce a week ago and while homebrew is good for certain members of the household, it's illegal for others. So. I needed to get some vittles and the farmer's market isn't for days (and they don't have much right now, anyway) and driving to the co-op is a 38 mile round-trip carbon fest that I wasn't in the mood for. Especially after buying that salad mix from California last week. A serious moment of weakness in my quest for sustainability. A penance of 40 days of hanging laundry will be made. Off to Hannaford...
I tried. I really did. In keeping with our 250-300 mile radius of acceptability when it comes to what to eat I did my best to guesstimate at distances from our house to the four neighboring states that might produce food. I bought NY state cheese, apples and yogurt. None of it organic. I bought Vermont milk, Pennsylvania mushrooms, Massachusetts potato chips and NY state cottage cheese. Again, all conventionally produced. I was post 50 minute workout so it was no trouble for me to very slowly stroll through every single aisle in search of local or even localish edibles. It was pretty tough though, let me tell you. No carrots or squash. No cabbage or potatoes. No parsnips or rutabaga. Not that I'd eat rutabaga mind you... I couldn't even LOOK at the spinach, arugula, salad mix (I've already sinned), broccoli, mangoes, green beans, peas, swiss chard or romaine lettuce. All flown or trucked in from the far corners of the earth. Israel. China. Argentina. California. All of it, off limits until summer when everything but the mangoes will be available both in our back-yard and at our local farmer's.
Our family food choices may not be the road everyone wants to travel at this point, although I don't think I go too far out on a limb when I say that, eventually, we will all be forced to make these same choices. We just choose to adapt a little sooner in order to avoid the pain later. That's not to say that this can't be painful at times, it's just that we feel this heavy weight of responsibility about teaching our children about how best to steward this earth that we live on and local food is one of those ways. That responsibility far outweighs the longing for arugula. With pears. And blue cheese. But we simply cannot continue to eat or even live the way we have been for the past several decades. It's game-over for that nonsense and the way to ensure that it doesn't continue is to teach our children to eat properly. To engage in a meaningful relationship with a food producer, either through a CSA or by consistently buying from the farmer's markets. Beyond that, however, we need to let our big food stores know that we would be oh, so happy if they would kindly begin to offer much, much more locally produced everything. From milk and butter and cheese to jam and bread and meat. They need to start a relationship with the local producers and pledge to market their food just as they do those of Kraft and Cargill and Turkey Hill. Just get the food and put it in the stores. I would buy it. I really would.
While we are on again/off again this treadmill of locavorism and resource usage reductionism, food is pretty much a non-negotiable list item. To that end I try to go to several different locations to buy wholesome, decent food. When the kids are in an art class near my local farm store; I hit it for the milk, cheese, outrageous sauerkraut and kimchee and whatever vegetables and fruit they might have. When we have to go to the nearest small city, which is almost never these days, I hit the co-op. A local food paradise. When we're anywhere near a Whole Foods it becomes the mecca where we inevitably spend the Whole Paycheck on absolutely stunning food. Local AND organic. When I'm in the wine store I look for NY wines and, even better, organic NY wines. These forays into neo-hunter-gatherer mode are always interesting but not always successful and sometimes I have to come home with a less than inspiring catch.
An interesting by-product of this process has been my burgeoning awareness that there are so many others out there thinking just like we do but who are taking it a step further; actually acting on it. For instance, there is a distilling renaissance in our area with several different producers of outstanding (and outstandingly expensive) distilled spirits popping up here and there. Tuthill Town Spirits ( is making the first distilled spirits in New York state since Prohibition. (I guess I won't tell them about my great-grandfather's operation in the 1930s...) Harvest Spirits ( is creating an apple based vodka, applejack and apple and pear brandy six miles away from my house. And while it's not distilled there is a new winery about 20 minutes south of me using their own grapes. This is in addition to the existing choices of local fruit, vegetables, eggs, honey, meat, wool, and goat, sheep and cow dairy products. The trouble with all of this is that it's not in one place. We have to drive a minimum of fifty miles to hit all of these producers when we'd really rather have some sort of local food market where it's all in one place. The infrastructure exists; we just need to push the stores to offer the goods.


  1. Hi There! Setting up a radius is a great idea! We try to do as much as we can as well, by growing our own (we're putting a green house in next for winter greens!) and we continue with a meat CSA that is fabulous - I wish they were organic, but alas, they are not. It's sad that there are a number of farmers that won't go organic due to cost. I am grateful however, that my son will eat whatever is put in front of him, and it's usually the veggie that gets eaten first!

  2. Hi Stacey,
    Thanks for the post. I'm in a food snit right now...dying for figs and arugula... can't even walk into the grocery store produce aisles. But I'll survive. I start our seedlings in two weeks, should be getting our fig trees and strawberries in the mail soon and will be tapping our trees this weekend. AND the bees are still alive!
    Take care,



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