Filed under: Food + Health, Society + Media | Tags: 100-mile diet, eat local, garden, local, Locavore
I am remembering a warm, sunny day in the spring of 1993 when I was seven years old. I was walking with a row of my classmates and, as often happened that year, I had no idea where we were going. Instead, I followed the orderly line of little pupils all dressed in light blue summer school uniforms. Ahead of me, I could see lots of bobbing heads; smooth black hair reflecting the light of the sun. I was the only blonde child in the group because I was the only American. The year that my family lived in Japan was full of surprises and on that spring day, the surprise was a fieldtrip to a community garden. We watered the plants and played in the dirt. In our school yard, we had a mini version. We also had a chicken coop.
I bring this memory up and I think about other gardens that I have seen in other parts of the world. When I am at my grandparent’s home in England, the majority of the food we eat are prepared by them: jam made from logan berries in their garden, fresh beans and potatoes, bread made from the flour of a local mill. When I lived in France, my host mom had tended the same garden in an allotment for thirty years and she brought home the produce for our dinner table.
I bring up all of these gardens to illustrate how naturally local food fits into the lives of people living in other societies. My grandparents have always lived like that and to my knowledge, so has Annick. When living in Japan, I surmised that visiting the community garden was a ritual that had been performed by the students at my school for years.
Yet in America, we must have lost that tradition of local food early on. We lost it in time that our communities developed without easy, natural access to local food. There are not conveniently located markets and gardens for many people. Most homes are sold without the space for a back yard garden.
And now we have the movement to eat locally. But it is a performance. As Jennifer Maiser says in the first sentence of her article entitled “Ten Steps to being a locavore,” one must “commit.” Maiser is also editor of the Web site “Eat Local Challenge”. Once again, this word choice infers the inherent difficulty in choosing to eat local. It takes time and energy. In order to eat locally, or organically, a shopper must care enough to research options. Usually, a shopper will have to travel farther to get to a local store or coordinate a schedule around making it to a farmer’s market.
It is also a difficult choice because organic food is expensive. It is thus reserved for the relatively wealthy or for those who decide to cut back in other areas in order to support green or local food choices. It involves a recreation of the pervasive American lifestyle and spending habits—the easy options are not local.
Still, the movement to eat local is growing. In Joseph Erba’s article, he quoted Jerry Wohletz, of Allie Tomato Farm, as saying “This [local food] is the new organic.”
I am usually wary of trends, but if something gets popular enough among consumers than in the American system, change does and will occur. If the trends are positive, like I would say local shopping is, then good change can come from it. The more people who take up the challenge of eating locally, the more options for eating locally that will follow. With more options, the choice will be more possible for more people. With enough people, we can attempt to recreate the American lifestyle in order to make what should be the easiest option easy. Local food should be the natural choice in as many ways as possible. There are some communities where this has happened.
In the article The Rise of the ‘Locavore’, writer Pallavi Gogoi describes a successful market in a town in southwestern Virgina. Why is it successful? “For folks here, this is part of the Saturday morning ritual,” says Anthony Flaccavento, a farmer who is also executive director of Appalachian Sustainable Development, a nonprofit organization working in the Appalachian region of Virginia and Tennessee. Flaccavento continues to say: “This is not a fringe foodie culture. These are ordinary, middle-income folks who have become really engaged in food and really care about where their food comes from.”
That particular article gave me hope. It said that the movement is gradually “reshaping the business of growing and supplying food to Americans.” That is what needs to happen in order for eating local to become something Americans just do.
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