Want to reduce your environmental impact, learn where your food comes from, and embrace an ancestral way of eating? Take the #LocalThirty Challenge!
Could you feed yourself and your family using only local foods? And still eat well?
I’m embarking on a challenge to find out.
Why Eating Local & Seasonal Matters
The simple fact is, sustainable food is local food.
This report claims 11% of greenhouse gas emissions comes from the transport of food. Meals in the US travel an average of 1,500 miles. Those emissions, regardless if you’re eating meat or sweet potatoes or sunflower seeds, is less if those things are grown closer to where you live.
Plus, it’s hard to know how food is produced when you can’t talk to the farmer or even know where its origins are. Are the workers toiling in safe conditions? Was rainforest clearcut to grow that alternative protein? Can the local environment support those crops there is a demand for?
The #LocalThirty Challenge
When Andrea of Dishing Up the Dirt mentioned she would be eating local for 30 days, in a “Local Thirty Challenge”, I knew I was all in. I am not new to the idea of local and seasonal food, and I’m not perfect in any way with my local eating habits. I could do better. I need to do better. This is the perfect opportunity to formalize what I’m so passionate about!
For the month of September, for 30 days, eat only foods grown and produced within 200 miles of your home. You can have 10 “cheat items”, which are from outside your radius. This is what I chose!
She chose the radius of 200 miles because that was practical for her. Mine will be 215, because that’s how far away my parent’s farm is, who supplies me with almost all my meat, plus things I don’t have space to grow in my tiny urban garden, like pounds and pounds of onions and tomatoes.
What I Expect
I am not new to eating local and in season. I pass up recipes that call for produce that I can’t find locally, but I’ve gotten lazy. I sometimes buy produce from Mexico because it’s easy. I still depend on the grocery store for grains, which I have no idea where they come from, or the many spices I use that have been flown around the world. I eat copious amounts of peanut butter (which doesn’t grow locally to me at all).
This challenge will cause me to get more creative. With ingredient substitutions in my favorite dishes, or new ideas to try. But even without finalizing that list, I feel constricted. Like my local foodshed isn’t good enough to keep my palette excited. I also somehow fear that I won’t get enough food, that I’ll be hungry, which is utterly silly and prosperous.
Why I’m Doing This Eating Local Challenge:
Beyond the obvious environmental impact (or lack thereof), here are some of my personal reasons:
I cook better with limited choices. As a Highly-Sensitive Person, I get overwhelmed. By noise, by light, by too many choices. Picking paint colors can send me into tears. The choices at the grocery store or trying to decide what to make for dinner have made me paralyzed and I just eat a slice of cheese (true story).
I get back to my own cooking history. I am not new to eating local.
I was 23, first time living by myself, and was working two jobs to pay rent. On top of my Monday-Friday job as a naturalist and a Saturday job as a retail clerk at a boutique store, on Sunday’s, I ‘worked’ for a local farm.
They had a tiny retail shop, a small shop with a table, a scale, a cash register, a sink, and two refrigerator cases. Local restaurants would come to pick up produce for their dinner service, and I’d weigh their selections and write down their purchase on index cards, for some other person to later tally and send them a bill. Local residents would also stop in, and I’d take their cash for the bunch of kale or basket of tomatoes.
My hours, which I’d also record on an index card, kept filed between these wine country restaurants, gave me credit to spend on produce, which I would carefully subtract from my balance. Plus, I could take home the past-their-prime melons, tomatoes, the slightly wilted greens and such.
So I bought a Deborah Madison cookbook, would bring home whatever bounty my credit would cover or I had permission to take, and I learned how to use it. That is what I ate, with some grains or bread from the market.
And honestly, I was probably a better cook 10 years ago than I am now. I think I honored those limited ingredients more and tried new things, to truly experience their fullest potential. I could do with getting back to that.
It connects me with the ancestral past. This challenge is not something trendy. This is how our ancestors ate, and if anything, this challenge is more generous with its 200-mile radius. My ancestors ate what was local to them, foraged, hunted or later grown in their climates. They were healthier and probably happier. There is a growing discussion about eating a primal diet, listening to our ancestral wisdom, rewilding. This is how we do it. To live closer to the earth. To live a more natural lifestyle. To truly appreciate and embrace the seasons.
With my tiny garden, I often get lazy- opting to grab something at the grocery store because it’s convenient, despite by key principles being to support local and seasonal food. I need this challenge to get back to those roots.
I literally have no excuse to not eat locally. Andrea, the creator of this challenge is a farmer, and has more access to her own produce and her own farmer’s network than I will ever have. I’m in a metropolitan area of 2 million people, with a tiny garden that seemingly only produces zucchini and cucumbers. But, I happen to be in the middle of the countries largest agriculture area.
While most of the food is exported or sent that aforementioned 1,500 miles away, there are still lots of small farms that sell at the farmers market. I foresee that getting produce will be no issue at all. Neither will meat proteins. Grains, however, will be my biggest challenge. You can expect a few to likely be on my cheat list, which I’ll post
I’ll learn more about my area. I was very well versed in the local food scene in my last community. I knew all the markets, people at the local farms, and I knew who to call up and barter eggs with. I know none of that here, despite living here for over a year. This project will force me to look deeper, and forge that connection I crave but have been putting off making.
Want to join this challenge?
Make sure to use the hashtag #LocalThirty and follow me along on Instagram as I share some of my meals, my challenges, and what I’m learning along the way!