Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Celebrate September: Eating (and Buying) Locally


I think it was 2008 when we first participated in the Eat Local Challenge. That first year changed the way we looked at our eating habits, and it started us on a brand new journey toward more sustainable living.

In her 2001 memoir, This Organic Life, Columbia University nutritionist Joan Dye Gussow writes that her commitment to eating locally "is probably driven by three things. The first is the taste of live food; the second is my relation to frugality; the third is my deep concern about the state of the planet."

We have to concur with her sentiments -- though probably to greater and lesser degrees.  For us, the primary reason for choosing to eat locally is definitely the flavor quotient.  Food grown close to home simply tastes better.  There's more variety, more diversity, since local food doesn't need to be bred to survive thousands of miles of transport.   

Frugality is certainly a concern when we purchase food products.  But, it's not necessarily a driving force.  When we purchase a locally grown product, we're making a conscious choice to spend our hard-earned money to support a local farmer and his/her farm. Sometimes that's not the cheaper option -- because we're buying from small family-owned farms, not huge corporate agribusinesses.  But, I can always feel good about that decision because it means I'm assisting in preserving farming as a livelihood.  Now, if I'm honest, I'll admit that our decision to spend our money this way means we make some trade-offs.  We don't eat out or go to the movies terribly often.  We spend quite a bit less on clothing and shoes than we used to.  And we don't have cable television.  But, it's worth it to us.

The earth is also a concern of ours -- though primarily from the perspective that it's our obligation to be good custodians of what we've been given.  We have a great deal of confidence in the technology being used to develop alternative energy sources, so we're not pessimistic about the state of our world.   But, it's a nice feeling to know that we're saving on energy & fuel costs, and keeping more money in our local economy, by supporting our local purveyors.

Eating locally is also, in our guesstimation, a safer option. When we get to know the farmers at our local farmer's market, we get a first-hand look into how they farm. We are able to ask them how they view the use of chemicals in agriculture, and we can talk with them about their growing philosophies. That kind of transparency doesn't exist when we buy a package of pre-washed organic spinach at the grocery store.

When we buy locally, we help keep my local farmers in business, and they help keep us well fed.  And, when it all comes down, it's the elegance and sustainability of that exchange that is so very compelling... and certainly far more sensible than gambling on faceless producers who grow produce thousands of miles from my home.

And now... the fun news!

This year, in celebration of our fourth annual Eat Local Challenge, we've partnered up with the West Bend Company, a local kitchenware manufacturer that is celebrating its 100th year anniversary.  For the next three Wednesdays, beginning tomorrow, we'll be giving you insight into some ways we make the most of local foods & food products.  We'll be giving you a first-hand look at the benefit and functionality of some awesome kitchen items made by the West Bend Company.  

Best of all, we'll be hosting three very special giveaways that will allow you to try these products out for yourself!

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