Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Going Local - How and Why?

Happy Earth Day! The media is full of information today on Earth Day celebrations, but I thought I would go with a more general topic today since its really our day-to-day actions that make a difference.

We hear a lot about the importance of buying local, but what's the fuss really all about? I have to credit the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver for really making me think about this one. Her family spent one year only eating what they could grow, raise, or purchase in their local area (less than 50 miles). All I had to do was take one glance at all those stickers on my fruits and veggies to know that most of my food (particularly in the winter) comes from more than 50 miles away.

Buying local has never really been something I prioritized on a year-round basis. Sure, it's great if all other things are equal, but what about cost and convenience? It's easy to go to the store and load up on produce from the four corners of the Earth, while ignoring the environmental cost of shipping all that food.

Here are a few things of the reasons that I've been starting to prioritize local foods (or other goods, for that matter):
* Local foods have been picked more recently which means more nutrients.
* The freshness of local foods mean they taste better!
* Buying locally doesn't have to be harder once you get started. There are farmer's markets, delivery services, roadside stands, and community sponsored agriculture (CSAs). Check out Local Harvest to see what's in your area.
* Local foods support local farmers which adds a rich diversity to your community and supports your local economy. If you don't want an area filled with big-box stores, you need to support the alternatives.
* Buying locally is closely tied with buying seasonally. You simply can't expect to buy local asparagus all year-round. I did find a nice calendar for food grown in the Northwest by season. In season in April: asparagus, beets, carrots, kale, lettuce, parsnips, radishes, rhubarb, rutabaga, spinach, and turnips.
* Of course, the best (and cheapest) way to reduce the miles your food travels to get to your table is to grow it in your own backyard.

In a recent discussion with my husband, he claimed to be a very good local buyer. He proudly pointed out that all his favorite beverages are local - his never-to-be-without Coke Zero is bottled 20 miles from our house and his favorite beer (Red Hook) is microbrewed even closer. I do buy organic milk and apple juice from local sources as well, so apparently we've cornered the market on local beverages. I guess we all have to start somewhere!

Now, I'm off to go try to figure out to do with the local beets I bought yesterday. I love them in restaurant salads, but have never tried cooking them myself. I'm not Barbara Kingsolver, but I am taking baby steps...


  1. Good to know Coke Zero is supporting our local community, as it is a favority of mine too! Speaking of local farmer's markets, the Edmonds Summer Market is a wonderful one, that runs every Saturday, from May through September. A few years ago we made the commitment to going every weekend to buy fruits and vegetables for the week, and every year I honestly notice a marked difference in my kids desire to eat vegetables. They comment on how good the beans, broccoli, and potatoes taste. When peaches and nectarines are in season in August, the juice literally drips down their chins as they gobble them down, leaving wonderful memories of summer that you just don't get from store bought fuit. May is just around the corner, so if you happen to be in the Edmonds area on a Saturday, be sure to stop by!

  2. Our Mukilteo farmer's market doesn't start until June so we'll definitely stop by the Edmonds one in May. My kids are definitely still on the iffy side for new fruits and veggies, so its always good to hear success stories. We'll keep working!