armchair farming

Jesse has coined the term "armchair farming" for my most recently
developed habit: reading about other peoples' local eating experiments.
Well let me tell you, the back-breaking work that is armchair farming
has made me notice many an inefficient thing, from Himalayan Rice to
too-cheap meals to non-recyclable packaging.

Done with Novella Carpenter's Farm City, I am currently reading
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It's a memoir of
her family's year-long quest to only eat local foods. The book is chock-
full of factoids and statistics, recipes and simple suggestions to improve
the mileage of your foods (it's something like 87 fuel calories to transport
1 calorie worth of rice, for example.).

Of course, this brings up all sorts of questions of morality, practicality
and feasibility. Should I avoid eating overripe bananas that are going to
waste? How can I afford to eat local foods when I am underemployed?
And while there are many farmers markets in my city, if there are none
today, and I am out of produce, what then?

Of course I don't know the answers, not that I believe there are answers.
On the way home I bought a bunch of bruised bananas to dehydrate for
making my own fruit-and-nut bars, plus a couple of cans of coconut milk
just for kicks. I did avoid buying the things I can purchase locally: peaches,
plums, tomatoes, berries (all things that are 3-5 times cheaper down the
block than they will be at the farmers market, but lacking in quality).

So where does this leave me? I am still using food that traveled fairly far
(coconut milk from Thailand and bananas from Ecuador) but I am using
them for foods that will either save transport and packaging (homemade
nut bars versus buying Larabars or Clif bars) or that will keep my food
dairy-free, avoiding using the ultra-pasteurized non-organic milk that
is in my budget.

Is it a start? Sure.


andrew said...

I would have written about our local experiment, but we were so tired from talking about it we just couldn't be bothered.

It seems like every bit of thinking about it you unfold leads to more discoveries, more thinking. I think it is both liberating to be free from feeling trapped in the pre-assembled food industry to slightly nervous-making when you start worrying about questions like "will there be enough to go around" "how will afford this" and "really, do I have to buy the stuff I've sworn off because my pantry is empty and the market is closed!". Of course, its actually way more than just two feelings at once.

Beyond the token effort (one month, totally local), I discovered you really start considering what you are buying that much more and stop consuming the heavily-transported, unsustainable foods, sometimes without even thinking about it because you have developed good habits.

I did find that rather than consuming less of the foods that cost so much more when produced locally (especially the animal products), I just buy them anyway and kill the food budget a little (lot). That is one part that could use a little refining.

Anonymous said...

In Brooklyn, the Union Street Co-op specialized in almost all local stuff. Certainly produce. And meats as well. 500 mile radius only. May want to check your local co-ops and see what their policies are.