Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge: Getting out of the slump

Local eating is at the heart of what we do here at Burp! Which is why it came as a real surprise when I didn't find myself feeling all aflutter when I read the announcement for the 2009 Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge taking place September 1-15 and the Wisconsin Eat Local Challenge which runs September 27 - October 4th.

Last year, when we started the challenge, we were seriously stoked. And our progress was impressive (we surprised ourselves by buying/eating 74% locally during the challenge). And, thanks to the number of local products/companies we discovered, we found that many of our local eating practices could be sustained over much of the year.

So, why am I not feeling more excited?
After all, THIS YEAR our local eating challenge should totally ROCK.

The fact is, the concept bores me a bit. As you know, I've been feeling a bit slumpy lately when it comes to cooking, and that feeling has begun to extend itself to the concept of local eating.

Being a locavore isn't new and exciting anymore. Just two years ago, "locavore" was the word of the year in the New Oxford American Dictionary. But this year?? The shine has worn off. The excitement has waned. The Eat Local Challenge blog (a great source of inspiration) is dead. And I've hit the danger zone.

I believe they call this sort of thing a "double edged sword". On the one hand, the fact that eating locally has become mundane to me is probably a good thing. That means its become part of my routine, a natural part of my life. On the other hand, there's some danger that allowing something as important as supporting the local food economy to become hum-drum means that it isn't at the forefront of my behavior. If I can't get excited about it, how can I expect others to do so?

So, we decided that something had to change.
This year, our eat local pledge includes the usual:
  • We'll be looking for as many food sources within 100 miles of our home as we can find, shopping at the farmer's market, and looking for mechanisms to extend our local eating into the winter months.
  • However, we'll also concentrate on the (more sustainable) ability to eat regionally -- meaning that we'll focus our eating on products we can procure from the near Midwest (WI, IL, MN, IA, and MI).
  • We'll also be taking a critical view of what we can do to continue eating locally even after the farmer's markets have closed for the season.
But, I'm including one more bullet point:
  • We'll focus on ditching the slump and FINDING THE JOY in local eating.
So, here goes! September 1st is here, and we're starting it off right.

What about you? Do you subscribe to local eating as a habit?
Any sources for inspiration you'd like to share?

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  1. We eat locally, but I'm not sure what percentage of our food is. We get a lot of food from local farmers markets.

    On the other hand, I definitely want to establish a better connection to local farmers in hopes that it would translate to a more local dining habits.

    I think your efforts to rely more heavily on the Midwest is the right path to follow.

  2. Dan - One of the more interesting things about the challenge is tracking your spending. I'd highly recommend doing it sometime -- just for kicks. Really eye-opening.

  3. Good luck. I really admire you guys. I can remember last year you eschewed some things you really seemed to want to eat in order to stay local. It's not easy. I know it's hard for me to fit getting the farmer's markets into my schedule and the supermarkets don't feature much local stuff. Heck, in my neck of the woods the farmer's markets seem to be more about pre-made foods than they are about fresh produce. One market I go to has TWO vendors of fruits and veggies and the rest sell things like baked goods, soups and quiches, sauces, cheeses, beef, and pork, and chicken. On the good side, the vendor that sells wonderful chicken also sells milk and eggs, so that's two staples I can get very locally.

    Sometimes I can imagine it's hard to be excited because some of the things you love the most aren't local and never will be (like chocolate!). Keep soldiering on. You are an example to us all!

  4. good luck with local eating! i try to buy from local grocers/farmers when i get a chance, but sometimes, i don't even know where it's from.

  5. Hi there, a few things I tell my clients:

    1. Define local as regional (here I call it the West Coast diet). in this global world define local as the ENTIRE U.S. if you want.

    2. Nutrition (including eating local) is about having a strong foundation not about perfection.

    3. The most important thing is to eat REAL Food, local is secondary.

    4. Food must taste good and be enjoyed. Eating locally-seasonally produces fruits and veg that taste superior, but certainly out-of-the-region produce is better than no produce.

  6. I wish I could eat locally more. But my problem is a distinct lack of transport. I don't have a car, so I can't get to the farmers markets. Sigh. Otherwise I would be all about it.

  7. I try to eat locally, but this summer it has kind of fallen away, since we have had a lot of visitors and therefore haven't been to the farmers market enough (it is strange to me that others don't get as much joy out of going there as much as possible...). Plus it is just really hard in FL. So I have kind of put that on that backburner and will focus my efforts on cultured dairy, until we move to VT this spring. Then I plan to take up the challenge once again.

  8. Jenn - Oh, yay... more good reasons to move to VT :) I can't believe that people don't get joy out of going to the farmer's market. Honestly, I live for that trip each week. My biggest problem is buying more food than we can eat!!

  9. I try to eat locally and support our local farmers. During the summer that is pretty easy. Fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant. I am not always successful but, it is a concept that I like to keep applying to my lifestyle. What's most important about food, is that it be enjoyed.

  10. I love when you did this last year, good luck.


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