For several years now, I’ve been reading and talking with people about the advantages of becoming a locavore*, a person who eats only food grown, farmed, or produced locally.
I’ve learned a lot. I could go on at length about why eating locally is more sustainable, is often healthier than typical grocery store food that’s been transported an average distance of 1500 miles, and why it’s good for the earth and all living things in many other ways, but instead I’ll refer you to three books that got me interested in the first place.
First, to get a clear picture of current American food production methods, I’d suggest reading a wonderfully written book called The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Next, in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Barbara Kingsolver describes her family’s year long experiment in local eating. Barbara’s sense of humor and deeply personal style make this a delightful read. Finally, Plenty by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon describes a closer-to-home effort. They tried eating only food produced within a 100-mile radius of Vancouver, B.C., Canada. (They have some nice things to say about Whatcom County, by the way.)
Those books inspired me to start examining the origin of what I eat, and I decided I wanted to change to a locavore lifestyle. To a locavore, “local” usually means within 100 miles, but I wanted the boundaries to be simpler. For my purposes I defined “local” as “produced within Whatcom County” in Washington state.
I quickly learned it takes a lot of time to research and locate local food sources. Changing all at once to locavore eating could easily be a full-time occupation initially. I realized I needed to create a more gradual transition plan.
Barbara Kingsolver’s book offered a solution. She suggested starting with just one meal a week. That felt like something I could realistially do.
Based on that, here’s the plan I came up with.
- I started by creating one meal menu each week. That gave me time to wander through local groceries to see what was available, make phone calls to search for missing ingredients, etc.
- I’ve posted the menus and recipes to this blog, and I write an article with one recipe each week for the Tuesday Bellingham Herald food section.
- I’m also blogging notes about the problems, solutions, resources, and insights I discover along the way so others won’t have to start from scratch.
While this might sound like a slow process, I’ve found that the rate of change accelerates. For example, when I created the first menu in February of 2010 I was starting completely from scratch. I didn’t know what was available at that time of the year and I had almost no locally produced ingredients on hand except garlic. Now I have a pretty good idea what foods I can expect to find, so creating a menu is getting faster. Also, as each menu was completed, locally produced ingredients were left over for use in other meals during the rest of the week. As I ran out of things, I replaced them as much as possible with local products. In this way, I expected it to only take about a year to become a full-fledged Whatcom locavore.
That was the plan, and it’s pretty much what has happened. About 90% of my family’s food now comes from locally grown sources. The rest includes things like an occasional avocado or banana, olive oil, and of course I’ll never give up chocolate!
What I didn’t expect is how much fun I’d be having! Searching out local ingredients is like a treasure hunt. I also enjoy meeting and contributing support to people working hard to offer nutritious and flavorful food using methods that are increasingly sustainable. And then, of course, there’s the pure pleasure of creating, eating and sharing wonderful meals with family and friends–and sharing them here with you! I hope you enjoy the results, too.
You Can Help
If you are trying to transition to locavore eating, please share your ideas and tips. If you know of Whatcom County food producers who sell through local markets or are willing to sell direct to customers, please email me. While I’m no purist, I’m especially interested in food that is produced organically, sustainably, free range, pesticide/hormone/antibiotic free, minimal or recyclable packaging, etc.–you know the drill. If you have any favorite stories, resources, recipes, tools, seed varieties, or so on, also please let me know.
We’re all in this together!
* Note: The word “locavore” was coined by a group in San Francisco for the World Environment Day in 2005.