Four weeks ago, Going Local week introduced me to the local food movement. The challenge of eating at least one Indiana food per day for one week increased my awareness of what I was choosing for the meals I created for my family and me. For seven days, I deliberately ate foods that were produced by me, bought from local farmers at the South Bend Farmer’s Market, or by volunteers who lovingly grow at the LaSalle Unity Garden. During that week, something happened; I awakened from the processed food-produced coma and began appreciating food for the health and energy-giving gift that it is. Thus began my journey to become a locavore.
An overused cliché states “we are what we eat.” However, we do identify ourselves by our eating habits: Vegetarian, Vegan, Pescetarian. In all cases, we are “eaters,” a word I prefer over “consumers” for its representation of the specific relationship between food and the person. Recently, I discovered a new identity: locavore—one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible. Eating local is hardly new but the movement is gaining momentum with every decision made to buy and eat locally grown and produced food that is locally grown and produced. Eating locally is the deliberate and intentional choice of those who see the value of connecting the eater to the food, to the producer, and to the community.
So why, when consistently stocked shelves assure us that we have plenty of food at our disposal at any given time, do I choose to buy and eat food that is grown and produced locally? I thought about this for some time. After Going Local week had ended, I realized I continued the challenge because I enjoyed it. I took joy in making a difference in my community and in my own household, especially, by growing my own vegetables. So, that’s a great place to start.
Then, several weeks ago, I had an epiphany. I had assisted in preparing beds in a hoop house at the LaSalle Unity Garden. The beds were already constructed and were awaiting dirt and seeds. Over the first layer of grass clippings, we spread a mixture consisting of bunny poop provided by a local farmer, beautiful black compost, leaves, and an organic growth agent made out of…more poop. After three hours, we had four boxes filled and I had planted kale, radishes, and mustard greens.
I was amazed at the effort made by different people that made this kale a reality: the bunny poop farmer, the grass-clippings guy who dropped off his donation every week, the compost pile-ers, not to mention those of us who turned the aromatic poop mixture and planted the seeds. The result of these combined efforts will be beautiful, healthy kale and greens that will become someone’s dinner.
Meanwhile, in my freezer, I have had bags of store-bought frozen corn since July. I know they’re there, the memory tucked in the back of my mind, but I keep forgetting about them. I didn’t grow the corn, nor do I know the person who did. I didn’t harvest the corn with my own hands, or shuck it, or cut it from the cob. It just appeared by my good-intentioned mother. I immediately noticed the different consideration I had for the kale than for the neglected bags of corn. It was near the point of obsession. How long would the kale take to grow? Will it be protected in the hoop house? When it is harvested, how will it be prepared? Will it be put into a soup or a simmered with onions and bacon?
I delight in the food I helped to grow because I experienced the work that is necessary to produce it. Since that my day in the soil—and the bunny poop—I take no food that has been raised by people who live and work in the community in which I also live and work, for granted.
Taking food for granted precludes its waste but also overeating and making unhealthy food choices. I am finding as I develop that locavore identity that the choices I make as an individual eater also have major implications on my community, the local economy, and the environment.
(Follow my locavore journey in future posts!)