Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Locavore Baby-Steps Resolution

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2008 be the best year yet. May your lives and your gardens be fruitful.

The longstanding tradition at the New year is to make a list of resolutions for the coming year, so why buck tradition? If you want your resolutions to actually happen, experts suggest writing them as goals, and to be specific as possible. That is, rather than say, "I resolve to save more money this year," say, "I resolve to put $300 in savings at the start every month," or, "I resolve to fully fund my IRA this year."

So in the spirit of the running theme of local eating that has prompted a number of posts here, I propose a baby-steps approach to eating locally to add to your list of resolutions:

The weekly locavore/organivore grocery cart item check system:
Here's how it works: Each week when you shop for groceries, pull one item from the cart and find out where it is grown or produced. If it's not a local product, try to find the same or similar product that is locally grown or produced. You may not be able to answer this right away at the grocery store, but you can carry on your homework for that product during the week. For produce, check out farmer's markets or fruit stands to find out if the item is available now or if it's out of season. Check seed catalogs to see if you can grow it yourself. Find out if it's something you could buy in bulk when it's in season and preserve it for later. In the case of manufactured food products, look up recipes to see if you could make the same thing at home or something better. Are the ingredients that you need locally grown? Can you find local sources for them?

If there is no local source and you can't make or grow the product, look around the store to see if you can:
  • find an organic version of the product (but let's not succumb to silliness in organic labeling, such as this post from The Gardener's Pantry describing an "organic" prepared pancake batter in a spray can).
  • find a fair trade version (for teas, coffee, chocolate, or spices if you can't do without them).
  • find a substitute, such as using locally-produced honey instead of sugar.
  • do without entirely.
Will you count "locally manufactured" as fair if you can't find locally-grown? I leave that up to you. Patronizing local businesses is usually a good thing. By the end of the year, though, you'll have made a thoughtful decision regarding up to 52 items you commonly buy at the grocery store. And if there aren't 52 different items that you commonly buy, you'll finish your resolution before the end of the year. Everybody wins.

Here are a few of my more interesting finds from the past year:
  • Bob's Red Mill products: Bob mills all kinds of flour, grain, and gluten-free products, many of them organic. I'm trying to find out where Bob gets his grain from, but at least the mill itself is well within my 100 mile radius, and I can get high-quality organic flour for my pantry.
  • Zhena's Gypsy Tea: Until I can grow my own Camelia sinensis (tea plant) and make my own tea, I'm buying my tea from Zhena. It's 100% fair trade tea, and comes in the most fabulous flavors. Gypsy King Chai (a spiced black tea), Ambrosia White Plum, Sense of Peace (a rose-scented tea), Gypsy Love (another rose-scented tea), and Lemon Jasmine are my favorites. Not locally-grown or produced, but a compromise: supporting a fair-trade product.
  • Dagoba Chocolate: Dagoba is manufactured in Ashland, Oregon, a little outside my 100 mile radius, but still within my home state. They use organic, sustainably-grown cacao and support rainforest reforestation. They also make the best dark chocolate ever, leaving Hershey's dark chocolate tasting nasty, bitter, and grainy by comparison. Try their Lavender bar for something different. Or go full-strength with the New Moon 74% cacao bar.
I'll keep posting my discoveries as I learn more about local eating over this next year. Who cares to join me on this journey?


mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

There was an interesting article in The New Yorker (October 29, 2007) about Dagoba chocolate.

BTW, although Dagoba was founded by Frederick Schilling, he sold it to Hershey's in October 2006.

Rose Marie said...

Reading the labels is a useful tool and it continually changes the way I shop. Your suggestion of scrutinizing one product each week is excellent. With produce from my grocery store, I sweetly ask where it is from and if they don't know or it's had a long trip, I nod and say I prefer local and put it back. Hope it will eventually make a difference.