For over a month now, ever since I found a short cut to work, I’ve been feeling guilty. Why? Every morning, five days a week, I pass a farm that sells eggs. And I don’t stop.
Why? I eat eggs! I can tell the difference between free-range eggs and corporate-farm eggs. (They taste infinitely better and don’t look so anemic. The yolks are often a vibrant yellow.) I want to support local farmers. I am grateful for local farmers! So, why don’t I stop, you may ask? Because I have to drive down a long lane first.
Yes, I’m aware that makes me sound like an idiot. And I feel like one, believe me. But, especially in the winter when it’s dark or nearly so at the end of the work day, I find I just don’t want to take the time.
I finally decided to do something about it. I hatched up a wonderful plan. (No pun intended.) It’s a combination of the following movements and inspirations:
- Support your local.
- Think globally, act locally.
- Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
The book, for those who may not yet have discovered this gem, is about Kingsolver’s resolve to eat locally for one year. She and her husband and two daughters decided to commit to eating only locally produced food: animals, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains grown within a 100-mile radius.
While I am not yet ready to make that kind of commitment, I decided to try a more moderate plan which will at least get me started in the right direction. For one week out of the month, I will only buy foods grown and produced within a 50-mile radius. (I may also allow myself to eat once or twice at a local Mom and Pop-type restaurant or cafe–not a chain.) And, as in the Kingsolver plan, I will allow myself one exception. (In my case, it will be tea. I like caffeinated tea. Eventually I may give it up, but not yet. And caffeinated tea is not grown locally, or even in America. It needs a sub-tropical climate.)
What will this allow me to eat? Well, off the top of my head, I know that are several farms nearby that sell fresh eggs, another farm near me which grows hothouse lettuce and tomatoes, another place which grows microgreens, and two orchards with apples, cider, and… pie! I know there are also several farms that sell milk and, I assume, butter and, I hope, cheese. I will find out!
There are a number of places that offer local honey as well as places which offer homemade jams and preserves. And, I am happy to say, that Bucks County has a local mill which offers non-GMO flours milled from Pennsylvania grains! Exciting!
I don’t eat meat very often, but I find my body seems to need it occasionally. There is a local butcher that’s been around since I was a kid. They process local game and some of their meats are local. (I will find out more.) There is another farm a bit farther north that raises natural turkeys and chickens. (In this case, “natural” means no added growth hormones or antibiotics. Very important!)
I discovered that there is a farm which raises goats and sells goat milk cheese. We are even blessed with an entrepreneur who produces veggie chips made from organic veggies! And there are also several local wineries!
And to go with that pie at the orchard, there is also a local company which makes its own micro-batches of ice cream from locally sourced ingredients.
Do you know what this means? It means it is possible to have a well-rounded diet by eating only locally produced foods–even in February!!! Furthermore, I imagine that one week per month I will be eating MUCH more healthfully because I won’t be indulging in potato chips or pretzels. And fortunately, the Tastykake factory is outside of my 50-mile radius (and they don’t use local grains, and there is not one single thing about them which is healthy, although the kid in me very occasionally wants a taste of my childhood.)
My plan is to allocate one Saturday a month for traveling to a few of these various farms. That will be my grocery shopping for the week. I will not allow myself to buy anything that is not grown or produced within 50 miles, except for the tea and, perhaps, the flour, because at least it’s milled locally, with grains grown within the state, and, most importantly, those grains are non-GMO.
Perhaps we can build up a network whereby a few of us volunteer to be the shoppers for a group of, say, ten families. In this way, only one of us is doing the traveling, buying, and producing of carbon. Our local friends and neighbors can then pick up the food from us on that weekend, maybe offering a bit of a tip for the expenditures of gas and time.
For those who don’t understand the importance of this movement, here are some of the reasons. (It’s not pretty. If you are sensitive, please skip to the last paragraph of this piece.)
- Most beef, pork, poultry, and dairy is produced in unconscionably evil factory farms that are incredibly inhumane and ridiculously unhealthy. The animals’ feed is filled with pesticides and herbicides, artifical growth hormones (contributing to the rise in breast and prostate cancers) and antibiotics. The animals are often jammed together and force-fed until they are so large they can barely walk. These places are beyond appalling and should be outlawed immediately.
- Most grains now, including corn, are grown in what I call a “scorched earth” way. Every living thing in the field is first obliterated by spraying the field with Roundup, or glyphosate. The field will look burned at this point, completely devoid of life. Then seeds will be planted that are genetically modified to be resistant to the death machine that is Roundup. Then, for good measure, more Roundup is sprayed two weeks before harvest. Yes, this is the poison we routinely consume in many of our favorite foods.
- Most of the food in grocery stores is not “real food.” Most of the products are so modified, so full of unnatural ingredients, so far away from the old food pyramid of meat, dairy, fruits, nuts, and vegetables as to be unrecognizable. The “real” food tends to be only along the outer perimeter of the store.
- Most of us love the beauty of open fields. And most of us are aware of the unremitting sprawl of developments, shopping centers, fast food places, banks, stores, and gas stations across this country. If we love open space, let’s help support it by supporting our local farmers.
What do you think? Who’s in? Let’s make this a healthier planet by shopping locally and supporting our local farmers.