Where Does Our Food Come From?
My family strives to eat locally. That doesn’t mean eating at places around our house. What it means is that we do our best to buy produce, dairy and meat from local farmers. We shop at Farmer’s Markets when possible and we grow quite a bit of food on our little postage stamp sized city lot – about 35 different things at last count! So, we feel like we’re doing our part to reduce our carbon footprint, support our local farmers and economy and to eat local. The food is grown closer to home, takes less time to get to us, and ultimately tastes better as it hasn’t traveled far to get to us. Our meat hasn’t been frozen and thawed only to be purchased, frozen again at home, and thawed weeks later for a lovely rubbery meal. Bottom line – eating locally is a good thing all around.
So Go the Best Laid Plans…
Life has a way of inserting convenience into your plans. You get busy, have no time to plan out your meals and to shop deliberately. And despite your best intentions you find yourself at the grocery store and you start pulling things off the shelf willy-nilly. Without thinking about it we assume that places like Whole Foods must carry only local products. Think again. And what is ‘local’ anyway? Is it within 50 miles of your home? 250? A days drive? It’s entirely subjective. And when you are hungry and out of time it’s a mere afterthought.
A Family Project is Born
About 3 weeks ago my daughter and I visited Metsker Maps near Pike Place Market. I explained to her that we were going to start a project to find out where our food was coming from. We bought two maps – one of the USA and one of the world. Then we took them home, affixed them to foam core poster board, and put a spreadsheet on it so that we could write down the following details about each traceable food item:
- Type of Food (Meat/Fish/Fruit/Veg/Dairy) – we agreed that anything out of a box or prepared would not be documented
- Name of food item (i.e., Pork Chop, Zucchini, Milk)
- Where Purchased
- Where Grown/Raised
Simple as that. We broke out our push pins and started writing things down. After two weeks, and much to our surprise, we had ticked off 6 states and 8 countries. So much for our aspirations to eat locally eh? It turns out that even in the diverse agricultural paradise we call Washington State we find ourselves eating mangoes from Mexico, bananas from Ecuador, and apples from New Zealand. I’m ashamed to write this during the height of summer and harvest season when beautiful produce is coming to market.
Washington Organic Week is Coming
Little did we know that Washington Organic Week was nearly upon us. After our poor performance we have agreed to double down our efforts. No more Central American fruit! No more lettuce from California! And no more cheese from Wisconsin!! We are going to eat locally, organically where possible, and we’re going to put our money where our mouths are – in Washington! We learned from Tilth Producers that we can pledge to eat organic, local food for Washington Organic Week (WOW!) is really about connecting and educating consumers about the large organic industry in Washington state. Their mission is to inspire consumers to:
- Choose organic for farmers, who benefit by your support of local, organic agriculture.
- Choose organic for your health, to avoid the potential consequences of food grown using chemicals or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
- Choose organic for the planet, and support agriculture that cares for our waterways, soil and wildlife.
- Choose organic for the bees, who suffer from conventional farming and its chemical dependencies.
- Choose organic for your local economy and community, and support your neighbors employed in local agriculture and the food industry by helping reduce their exposure to dangerous chemicals.
Instead of just one week, our family is going to start our pledge to eat organically and locally today through September 13th, 2014. Our goal is to eat at least 60% of our food from local producers and to choose organics wherever possible. Hopefully after that some of our new found dedication will stick with us going forward.
Join Us With Our Project!
We will also be posting the results of our food tracking project here on TheHungryDogBlog.com to show you just how we did. It would be great if any of you decide to join us and share your results. I’d love to collect as much data as possible to come up with some real analysis to show how much people truly do eat locally and where they get their food from. Please feel free to send me any of your food consumption information at firstname.lastname@example.org or post in the comments!