In Search of Local Food

Not too long ago I talked about my two focus areas of my life: Affordable housing and sustainable food. I have recently picked up Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which has been a really good read.  The author talk about the many issues of our food system, primarily stemming from large agribusiness.

None of this is new, in fact it is rather old news to me, but something spurred inside of me to take a look at buying local.  I once made a big push for this, but when I arrived at the farmers market and discovered them simply repackaging produce from Argentina and placing it under the “produced in North Carolina” sign, I gave up.

I think what really motivates me is that I want real food, actual real food, not some chemically, induced genetically modified, adulterated and processed food.  After taking a look around, I realized something, it is hard to find real food.  Today’s companies market the fact that they use real sugar as if they are somehow an industry leader, I can only think “you are proud to say “our food is actually real food” “.

The other day I was at Walmart – I know, I know – and was excited to see that they had a “seasonal foods” aisle,  I rounded the corner to find seasonally thematic candy.  Not what I was expecting.  How far as a culture have we gotten away from our food when our seasonal foods are candy, simply repackaged?

A mental picture always comes into mind of the bumper stickers all over Asheville, NC and beyond “local food: 1000’s of miles fresher”  and it is true, the food we find in the stores is a bastardization of mother nature’s brilliance aka fruits and vegetables.  I have tried to find a local place to start buying milk – let’s not get into the whole raw vs. pasteurized debate – and have found it can be quite difficult to procure without driving an hour.  For eggs I soon will be producing my own, I could raise meat chickens, but I think it would be easier to just find it locally.  For cheese I plan to start making my own from the local milk.

I know there are simply some things I must resign myself  from getting locally such as flour, rice, and a few other things.  In all honesty, I love fruit so much that I don’t think I will ever stop buying out of state or country fruit, just can’t.  But it has caused me to rethink things and discover the local side of my food.  I think once I can get it buttoned down pretty well I can then start sharing my experience within my community, to show the ins and outs, the pros and cons.

Share your thoughts on local food  in the comments

  1. Ryan,

    Thanks for this timely and thought-provoking article. As we’ve talked about in person, I’m trying to focus on being healthier in lots of ways– one includes eating more local, fresh fruits and vegetables (and proteins, etc. of course). Now that I’m living in a two-person household, I’m working to find a good resource for local foods. Beyond my health, I also really want to support small businesses.

    I’m trying to balance my desire for local food with my desire to have the whole process be 1. relatively easy and 2. at least a little affordable.

    That’s where I get into trouble. Can you recommend a method of buying local goods that is not hard to achieve and not too hard on the pocketbook?

    Thanks, Ryan, let’s do (local, sustainable) dinner sometime soon 😉

    –Katie R.

  2. I have read that purchasing local is almost three times as valuable when purchasing locally. When compared to big corps, where your money is taken out of the community to a international bank account, you buy from the farmer, who needs to buy things locally to run his farm, etc etc. There is a web of money flows that happen. It is much healthier of a system.

  3. In terms of milk what you buy now is probably produced not to far from where you live. A large part of the cost is transportation, thus most milk is processed regionally.

  4. I get raw milk from a farm not too far out of town. I don’t drink pasteurized milk period.

    I’ve started looking into growing with hydroponics. Store bought tomatoes are no comparison to something fresh from the farm. People may complain they cost more but you only have to use about 1/3 as many to get an even better flavor and nutritional value from your meals.

    Also, I lost some excess weight when I cut back on my fruit intake. Apparently your body doesn’t need all that fructose.

  5. I’m lucky in that my area has at least two farmers’ markets that require that everything sold there be local produce. Plus local farms that produce elk meat, bison, grass-fed beef, and free-range chicken and eggs. Sadly, the markets are closed for the winter, so I’m stuck with grocery stores until May.

    But before I started going to farmers’ markets, I never knew that brussel sprouts grew in clusters on a thick stalk that’s 2+ feet high. And before I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, I never knew that asparagus was a tree/bush sprouting.

  6. I’m looking into making some of my own cheeses, too, at least the easier ones.

    Katie R., sometimes farmer’s markets are cheaper than grocery stores. The more you learn about how food is produced, the easier it is to see why it costs so much more to get decent food. Just do what you can afford–start with a few things. Doing your own processing can also reduce costs.

    Lianne, do you have access to any CSAs (Community-Supported agriculture)? They usually have offerings throughout the year, though obviously less during winter–it depends where you live of course.

  7. Thought this article might add something to the topic.

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