Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Challenge 101: How to Go Local

If you've read the recent press coverage in the Catalyst Magazine and Salt Lake Tribune or attended the Challenge organizational meeting last month, then you have a pretty good idea of what we're about. If you are a newcomer to the site or still aren't really clear on how to participate, we'd like to help with a few more guidelines and ideas.

Here are a few tips to help you get started and stay motivated.

  • Pick your Local Range. We suggest either 100 miles from your home, or 25o miles. You might also consider "250 mi + the entire state of Utah", as the SE and SW corners of the state are just out of the 250 mile range. Your foodshed will look more like a keyhole than a circle, but its not just about geometry, after all.
  • Pick your start date and time commitment. The challenge month officially begins Saturday, Aug. 18 and runs through the Fall Equinox September 23rd. But you can start anytime if you aren't doing the full month. Participate for a day, a weekend, a week, two weeks, a month . . . once you get going, you might not go back!
  • Pick your Localvore Level. These include:
  • "Localvore Purist: All local all the time" - if it doesn't grow here you don't consume it;
  • "Localvore, but . . . " - you eat 90%+ local but can't give up a short list of items (such as coffee, olive oil, tofu . . items hard to substitute);
  • "Majority Local": more than half of your foods are local;
  • "Newbie": you're just getting started and want to be a part of the challenge, but are starting small - say 10-30% local beyond your current diet. That's OK! We all have to start somewhere.

That said, we strongly encourage you to eat as locally as absolutely possible. The challenge should be a stretch goal for you, not just basically what you are already eating. That might mean substituting your daily morning banana for peaches or plums for the Challenge, or learning to make your own tomato sauce with seasonal produce. if you already eat locally and seasonally to a large degree, step it up a notch or 3. That's the idea!

As you celebrate this Local Food Challenge, keep some notes of your experiences and share your reflections with our group. Submit posts, organize your own supper clubs with friends, have a movie night with a local food theme, go volunteer at a community garden, read up on local food issues or the farm bill . . . make this a month of learning, sharing, community, and fun. Oh, and of course, deliciousness!

For local product availability, visit the sites linked on this page as well as the blog posts by category (most are archived under the July posts). Please add to the list as you find more. Obviously, the local farmer's markets are a good place to start.

For a few good reasons to eat locally, visit the FoodRoutes website. For a more personal testimonial, I share a note from Lori Anne Lau of Lau Family farms, from their last email update:

"Our summer has become dominated by concerns about the drought we are experiencing. As our farm has no irrigation we are totally dependent on the weather. Our hay crop has been devastated by a combination of frosty nights (back in May and June), hot days, and little to no rain. To illustrate how poor the hay crop is, one field that has normally yielded 30 to 55 bales, this year yielded just 5 bales. . . Thank you again for your business! These are trying times for farmers in SE Idaho, and other parts of the West. We are so thankful for your support: moral and financial (buying our meat at prices that allow us a living wage). If we were still in the commodity market with our beef and lamb, I don't think we could survive a year like this. So thanks again for three great years. We look forward to providing your family with beef and lamb for many years to come."

Your choices matter! Join us in celebrating the height of harvest season and our local foods.


AGU said...

I wanted to share a link to my post about this project. It has the honor of being the first post of my new blog. aGreenerUtah.
Bon Appetit!

Joseph said...

I suggest the following grading
system for local foods/food Products:

Produce and other products:

AA: produced locally, sourced locally - beyond organic or biodynamic

Example: Jacob's Cove Farm, Pleasant Grove, UT

A: produced locally, sourced locally and organic methods or certified.

Example: Zoe's Garden CSA, Fruit Heights, UT

B: produced locally and sourced locally, conventionally grown.

Example: Farnsworth Cider Mill/Apple Farm Sandy, UT

D: procuced locally but not sourced locally

Example: Lehi Roller Mills flours and mixes

For meat and dairy:

AA: Processed locally, raised locally, pasture raised/grass fed on a biodynamic/beyond organic farm.

Example: Foote Family Farm (Redmond Heritage Farm) Redmond, UT (Available in Orem at Real Foods Market)

B: Processed locally, raised locally, certified organic.

Example: Clifford Family Eggs Provo, UT

C: Processed locally, raised locally, pasture raised/grass fed, fed some conventional grain.

Example: Winder Farms milk products.

D: Processed locally, raised locally, conventional grain fed.

Example: various

Jenn C said...

Thanks, Joseph, I like your concept alot. Eating locally is really important to me, but its one-dimensional. I think its also vital to consider how food is grown, and by whom -and how people, animals, and nature are treated in the process.

The organic/biodynamic component in combination with local is particularly crucial, I think - if we are concerned about our carbon emissions and eco-footprint, then we have to recognize how much fossil fuel goes into conventional agriculture beyond transporting it to our table.

Fertilizers are made from natural gas, using lots of electricity in the process, pesticides and herbicides are energy-intensive (entirely aside from their environmental impact), farm equipment runs on diesel, and so on.

So local is a great starting point to think about these things, but the whole enchilada.

Chad Heeter's 2006 tomdispatch post is a good introduction to the relationship between fossil fuel and your body fuel (ie food):

Susan said...

hi Jenn, nice post! Thanks for your thoughts on the matter.

Lassie said...

Thanks for writing this.