Eating Locally In March

By Fran Clemetson | Mar 19, 2008

Belfast — “Eating Locally in March? But whatever will we forage for?” you wonder.
Join in the March Eat Local Challenge in Maine as we discover what local food is available during this sparse time of year.
Sponsored by the Belfast Co-op, Food for Maine's Future, The Green Sanctuary Committee of the UU Church of Belfast, and WERU. Visit www.belfast.coop for challenge details.
Building Community Around Food
As a community we can increase our options by sharing ideas, resources and recipes.
I’ll start off with a story of my first eat local challenge experience during September 2007. Not a very challenging time of year to eat local, as the abundance was astounding, but it was an eye opener for my family and me. We'll soon have a link for non-members but until then you can email your comments to education@belfastcoop.com

Eating Exclusively Local, Well Almost
By Fran Clemetson of Belfast, Maine
September 2007
Eating local food is more than just pleasing to the palate. When our food dollars go to local farmers and producers we are creating a local food economy. We make it possible for the farmers and producers to stay in business creating local jobs. It's more than keeping money in our local economy though, we also reduce the amount of fossil fuels burned and we preserve the beautiful Maine farmland around us. For just these reasons alone, local foods are worth more than foods from away, in addition to being superior in freshness and nutritional value.
Promoting local food production is an important part of my life that seems to grow as I learn more about the world food economy. A family of six, we have a large vegetable garden that increases in size every year. We’ve started many fruit trees and have chickens for meat and eggs. Our neighbor provides us with beef. I also work and shop at the Belfast Co-op. Part of the Co-op’s mission is to promote the local food economy by selling locally grown and produced foods when possible. But when I decided my family would eat exclusively local for three days it opened my eyes to all the food from away that we use without really thinking about it.
The idea for the “eating local” challenge came up during the Belfast Co-op book discussion group, an ongoing group meeting monthly to discuss books about the global and local food economy. Our first book last spring was The Omnivore's Dilemma: A History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. In the book the author describes creating a meal that he has hunted and harvested himself. The second book was Bringing the Food Economy Home by Helen Norberg-Hodge, a book about local alternatives to global agribusiness. Being a rather proactive book group we had been discussing ways to promote the local food economy when some of us decided to create a challenge by eating exclusively locally grown food for at least one meal and reporting back about our experience. We had a good discussion around the challenges of meal planning. Logan Perkins of Food for Maine’s Future suggested approaching it from a nutritional standpoint. She said to look at what is available in each group and plan your menu from there. This helped tremendously when a couple of weeks later I sat down with my children to discuss the project. I could see the wheels turning in their minds as we discussed what eating local meant. They excitedly started naming all the foods we were growing in our garden; broccoli, carrots, potatoes, blueberries, raspberries, eggs, and onions to name a few. So we already had the vegetable group covered; eggs were a good start to the protein group. But the hand full of berries in our garden weren't going to be enough for our large family. We would have to go shopping. We needed grains, beans, meat, dairy, fruit, fats, salt, and sweeteners. I was pretty sure I could find all these items between the Belfast Farmer's Market and the Belfast Co-op. I made a list with the kids and we went to market.
The Belfast Farmer's Market was our first stop. Abundant with meats, vegetables, dairy, and much more, we had no trouble envisioning a locally grown meal here. We procured chicken, bacon, yogurt, goat and sheep's milk cheeses, and honey. Every raw material except the salt in the cheese was grown in Maine. Even the organic bacon was cured with Maine salt and Maine maple syrup.
Our next stop was the Belfast Co-op where we found three types of Maine grown beans. We chose the Jacob's Cattle beans because we were thinking of growing them next year. I was also very happy to find Maine grown bread flour, local milk, Maine butter, and cream.
A huge inspiration for eating local came from Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. A few people in our book group had read her book and they were able to impart the energy and commitment Barbara Kingsolver's family made to deliberately eating local for one year. The book tells the story of their “eating local” experience, and her website, www.animalvegetablemiracle.com, is a great resource of recipes, menu planning, news, resources and links.
Like Barbara Kingsolver, we decided to create some exceptions to our local diet. We decided to allow each family member to choose one thing from away. My eight-year-old son chose salt, which was good because it was already in some of our locally produced items. My six-year-old son chose New Jersey peaches. We had picked up a bushel of them a couple of days earlier and they were screaming to be eaten. My husband chose coffee, I chose tea, and the other two never decided.
Now that the kitchen was stocked and our rules decided on we spent our next nine meals cooking, discussing and eating local foods. We had a couple of “oops” moments, like the time I marinated the steak in tamari and molasses without thinking. But they were opportunities for discussion and awareness.
I'm thrilled my children will grow up learning what it means to eat local foods. I am not against having foods from away, but I am “for” creating awareness around foods and their true cost. I’m especially in favor of indulging in the pleasures of growing, storing, cooking, and eating local foods. And why not preserve our valuable agricultural lands, cut back on our consumption of fossil fuels, and create a viable local food supply while we are at it?

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