Lately I’ve been trying to figure out why eating local is so important to Chris and me. Though there are plenty of reasons, I think it comes down to one in particular for us.
It’s not about organic vs. conventional growing methods…
…though the more I learn about that subject the more I lean towards thinking that organic can’t be a bad thing. Whereas with conventional there’s plenty room for debate.
It’s not about nutritional value….
….though I’ve heard and read that foods that you eat as close to being picked at their peak as possible have more nutrients. The longer they sit, the more they lose.
It’s not about taste…
….though eating locally has caused me to say many times ‘That’s the best _____[insert produce name here] I’ve ever eaten!’
It’s not about environmental impact and sustainability…
….though when your food travels less to get to your plate there are less fossil fuels exerted in the process. And if they’re concerned about feeding the locals, they’re probably more concerned with sustainability. Again, that’s never a bad thing.
It’s not any of those things.
It’s about being connected….
….connected to your community through the farmer that farms it. And connected to your food because you know where it’s come from, how it got there and how it turned out like it did before it came to your plate.
Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit the farm where our CSA food comes from. We met Jeff, the farmer who’s responsible for trying to farm enough organic food on his rented land for 249 families and us throughout the summer. We saw the three greenhouses that he’s planted a ton of seeds to transplant into rows on his land. And that he’s taken care of so well that he’s been able to extend the plastic 2 years past the manufacturer’s guarantee, further decreasing his environmental impact and fossil fuel consumption.
We saw the fallow fields that he has in order to make sure he doesn’t work the land too hard. We heard the calculations he’s made on the plastic ground covering being more cost and environmentally efficient than having workers come and weed by hand. We saw the shitake mushroom garage cave with little mushrooms sprouting out from the blocks of wood.
I can look at our head of cabbage and I see where it was planted and harvested from, and in part who did the harvesting. I see the fresh garlic we got, and I now know why it tastes so different (in a good way) than what we buy in the store. And why we got the smaller heads of garlic so he could take the larger ones for seed since to buy them is much too expensive.
And I now know the reason some of the crops promised didn’t quite make it due to a ridiculously wet spring. I look at our share and don’t see lettuce for the first time in weeks. But I know that’s because the 4 working dogs that live on the farm were distracted one night by one of them having puppies and they didn’t stop the deer from eating 200 heads of it. Yes, I also saw the puppies and had Jeff’s little girl tell us the whole story. Like I’m going to miss out on seeing puppies?
And I learned the science behind all of it! How he’s working hard to pick only the strongest crops to turn to seed for next year’s plantings. That year after year that he does this the crops get stronger and stronger. How he’s been experimenting with new crops, instead of having to grow the tasteless, inferior ones that are demanded by supermarkets and wholesalers. How he watches his soil levels (this is where the science gets beyond me) to see how the levels in it are changing year to year as he takes better and better care of the land.
So, just how you feel more connected to a meal you’ve worked an hour on to make than you do after sitting down to a meal in a restaurant for an hour. That’s how I feel about our local food these days.
I didn’t do the growing (though I look forward to a garden some day), but I feel more connected to the farmer and his family who are part of the community we live in. And I feel connected to the other 249 families that celebrate the ups of the land with the bounty of summer and who understand the downs of losing heads of lettuce or rows of onions because life and weather happened.
And to us, community is a priority. It is in other parts of our lives, too. Just like eating at local restaurants and shopping at local businesses is. So it makes sense that we’d come around to eating locally too. It’s not 100% all the time, but I do appreciate what we’re able to do right now.