I admit that I am not the most rational person in the world. When faced with big choices, weighing the pros and cons is not how I behave.
My decisions – whether to have a baby, where to live, who to marry – are not based solely on logic. They are also based on my heart, or some intuitive notion. Perhaps because I’m a scientist, I sometimes feel this is a weakness. But every now and then, logic and emotion converge. The heart and the head agree, and this is a blessed thing.
That’s how it is, for me, with joining the local foods movement. I have read books, attended meetings, visited farms, and analyzed endless facts about the astounding benefits of re-building vibrant local and regional food systems. I have discovered many reasons to buy food grown nearby, and to support the local food economy however I can.
These reasons include protecting farms, promoting sustainable agriculture, getting in touch with the seasons, reducing carbon emissions, supporting your local economy, knowing where your food comes from, eating food that tastes better and is more nutritious, and improving the safety and security of your food.But if I’m honest, our family’s shift toward local foods is happening mostly for emotional reasons.I want our food to come from nearby because it makes me feel safe, well-fed, and happy.I’ve learned about beekeeping, blueberry picking, wheat varieties, and raising lambs.
I’ve become a huge fan of our farmer’s markets, and I’ve learned that nearby farms still produce over 170 different crops. I am grateful for the winter steelhead my husband catches on occasion, and I know that the giant yellow plums in our back yard make fabulous jam. I’ve met wonderful people who grow apples, own restaurants, brew beer, and fight hunger.
It may sound sappy, but shopping and eating locally has helped me to love my community and appreciate my home. It makes me feel hopeful.I am not talking about restricting my family’s diet to 100% local food. I salute those that do this, and I enjoy the books (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Plenty) and web sites (Eat Local Challenge, Local Harvest, Locavores) that point the way.
My approach has been incremental. I shop for local and organic first. I pick and freeze fruit in summer, buy lamb and beef from farmers I know, and prowl the farmer’s markets. We have a small garden. But I don’t think I’ll ever voluntarily give up either coffee or avocados. My daughter still eats cheerios and Annie’s pasta.
It’s remarkable, though, how many excellent foods are available from nearby. Eggs, milk, lettuce, broccoli, apples, carrots, and potatoes are for sale much of the year. The growing season brings a succession of wonders, my favorites being strawberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, and corn. Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where we live, is certainly a rich land, but everywhere, it seems, has something special to offer.
Discovering the food of your home landscape can be great fun. And its amazing how many problems – environmental, economic, and social – can be addressed through revitalizing local food systems.When the facts and the heart agree, the power of an idea can be truly astonishing. I hope my posts will encourage you to discover your region’s local foods, to start a garden or to meet a nearby farmer. I’m betting that eating locally will make you happy, too!