Eat Local, Near and Far

| May 7, 2006 | 2 Comments
  • 2 Comments

I’ve been reading voraciously all week about the Eat Local Challenge and the brave souls who have committed to varying degrees of local eating for the month of May.

My regular reading includes a whole bunch of Bay Area food bloggers, many of whom are taking on the challenge, including Sam, Pim, Catherine, Tea, Cookiecrumb, and of course our own Stephanie and Jen. (Not only is Jen participating, she’s one of the creators and organizers of the entire effort. Steph, on the other hand, is being a little hard on herself.)

In reading about their commitment, a common thread became clear, something along the lines of “I’m lucky enough to live in the Bay Area, so…” In other words, sourcing all of our food to local vendors comes easier to us. I agree (though it doesn’t make the effort any less impressive). Not only do we have an abundance of local farms and a hospitable climate, but local olive oil and wine, which are two of the staples that participants around the country just cannot find locally. Wine’s a staple, right?

So I started wondering about local eaters around the country. The Eat Local Challenge blog is an amazing centralized resource for the effort, and it lists all the participants (the acknowledged ones, at least) across the country, even some international participants.

The first surprise to me was that the participants are not all food bloggers. I kind of just assumed that this sort of exercise would appeal primarily to someone who thinks very carefully about the food they eat. That’s a fair assumption, I think. Where I went wrong was to assume that those people would choose to blog only about food.

In perusing the Eat Local Participant List, I found a pantheist pagan and a knitter, both in Washington state; a sculptor in Maryland; an urban homesteader in Portland; another knitter, this one in Virginia. I also found some incredibly cute kittens (locally grown, perhaps — but not for eating). Indeed, there are challenge-takers in St. Louis, New York, Ohio, Chicago, North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Canada, and France.

This was really only the first week, so people are just getting started. There are reports of amazing local strawberries in Georgia; the difficulty of finding local, organic milk in Virginia, even though it’s the state drink; and quite a few reports on growing your own.

The Eat Local Challenge blog says that while the Locavores originated in the Bay Area, “the nationwide participation … should cast aside any doubts that eating locally is only a Bay Area game — a game that others in the country can’t play due to different agricultural limitations.”

This is borne out by the Eat Local guidelines, which suggest a range of options for people who can’t find absolutely everything locally. Really this is about thinking deeply about where the food you eat comes from, and what it means to the environment, the family farmers you support, and to your health. The challenge is encouraging everyone to really connect with their food — to interact on a deeper level than just picking up an anonymous can or box of something at Safeway.

Kudos to everyone taking the challenge. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the month goes!

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  • Tana

    FWIW, both Pim and I live in Santa Cruz. Sam at Becks and Posh considers this to be in the Bay area.

  • Tea

    Thanks for the great post, Davina. I too have been surprised, and pleasantly so, by the diversity of participants. It’s great to hear all the different voices and experiences.

    One thing I’ve been thinking about is the whole “we’re so lucky we’re doing this in the Bay Area” thing. It is true we have a great climate for produce, but it’s more than that. Here in the Bay Area we’re lucky to reap the benefit of a thriving local food and agriculture community, the seeds of which were planted years back.

    I’ve been very aware that in doing this challenge I am standing on the shoulders of Alice Waters, Warren Webber (Star Route Farms), Sue Conley and Peggy Smith (Cowgirl Creamery), Jim Cochran (Swantonberry Farms) and so many more. The fact that we can contemplate eating 100% locally is due to their pioneering work. I don’t know it would have been possible 30 years ago (unless you had a big garden of your own).

    I think the exciting thing is this–who knows what it’s going to look like 10 or 20 years from now. Perhaps these people taking the challenge in less conducive areas might start planting seeds of their own. Perhaps they’ll begin to have an impact on their community. There is a lot of potential there.

    Thanks again, I always enjoy reading your posts.