A couple of weeks ago, we had a potluck brunch for a bunch of friends and we set them the challenge of bringing only local food. We thought it would be fun to give people a taste of the No Impact experiment since stage two of No Impact Man is sustainable eating, which means, in the extreme case of our project, we eat only food including ingredients produced within 250 miles. (And by the way, the cows in the picture live only about 100 miles away at the Hudson Valley dairy we use, Ronnybrook Farm, which provides its milk in reusable glass bottles).
The brunch was great. I didn't realize, because I am an only recently converted take out king, but cooking for each other is really a romantic and lovely way of coming together. Everybody had a story about why they chose, say, local honey for their pie instead of further-away maple syrup or how happy they were to find pears instead of apples. Bear in mind, that eating local right now is hard--it's winter. But the challenge made for conversation and it was a blast.
Anyway, we were too busy having fun to discuss the logic of eating local, and there are lots of reasons: "food-miles," "transparency," protecting local farm land, and on and on. I'll post more about the reasons later. But for now, I thought I'd offer a few concluding paragraphs from John Cloud's recent article in Time, "Eating Better Than Organic":
...I had arrived at an answer to my question: I prefer local to organic, even with the concessions local farmers must make. I realize there's something romantic about the desire to know exactly where your food is from...
...But when it comes to my basic ingredients--literally, my "whole" foods rather than my convenience foods--I would still rather know the person who collects my eggs or grows my lettuce or picks my apples than buy 100% organic eggs or lettuce or apples from an anonymous megafarm at the supermarket. Choosing local when I can makes me feel more rooted, and (in part because of that feeling, no doubt) local food tastes better.
Eating locally also seems safer. Ted's neighbors and customers can see how he farms. That transparency doesn't exist with, say, spinach bagged by a distant agribusiness. I help keep Ted in business, and he helps keep me fed--and the elegance and sustainability of that exchange make more sense to me than gambling on faceless producers who stamp organic on a package thousands of miles from my home...
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