Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Glocavore" there's something to ponder!

Penelopedia has posted about an issue I have spent some time considering...local eating. Now, I'm all for procuring local foods, IF they can be sustainably produced within a reasonable distance. But, as the article quoted by Penelopedia suggests (although a bit "in-your-face-edly"), sometimes we just CAN'T ALWAYS GET WHAT WE WANT locally. I mean, here in northern Minnesota the Ojibwe lived off venison and wild rice and blueberries and a few other plants we modern civilizationalists would not care to make into food. The influx of European immigrants brought a few other food choices. But, admit it, we are not exactly a food basket here, are we?

But the "Glocavore" movement (if it is one) suggests that we support certain products that simply cannot be produced locally. So we can't grow olives here in Minnesota. Fine, we'll support growers in California who can. Ditto for almonds, rice, etc. I can agree with that. Specialty farmers get decent prices for their crops, we get olive oil in Minnesota, it's a win-win deal. I hate to say it, but I almost can't grow tomatoes here, although I keep trying. :)

I admit it, the "locavore" thing has always been problematic for me as a blogger. I support it, I have a freezer full of local (<20 miles) grass fed beef, but to me it isn't the answer. There are some foods that cannot be grown locally, but could provide significant income to someone who could. I'm not talking about shipping lettuce to Minnesota in June when we could supply our own very well. I'm talking about almonds, oranges, artichokes, lemons, grapes...anything that cannot be grown in a specific climate, but would be missed in our cuisine. Especially anything that makes a statement against processed foods.

I always feel like, among the blogging community, locavorism is a status thing. A "feel good" thing. A "hooray for me" thing. And that has kept me from expressing my doubts about it, in the past. I was afraid of alienating any blogging "friends" who did not share my views. But now I don't care. I've grown older, and wiser!


MojoMan said...

Like so many of these things, it doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition, but certainly worth thinking about. If we would ALL try to buy SOME of our food from local sources, it would save lots of energy and support many more farmers. Like trying to buy a few products made in the USA instead of China, if we all did it, it might help. I think it's a matter of awareness and thinking. As a society, we just don't think about this stuff enough.

Rurality said...

I have felt the same way. It seems to be carried to extremes sometimes. I have to admit that I like to buy local stuff mainly so I can support local people. (I have wondered how many of the local-food-only people make an effort to buy other stuff locally too.

arcolaura said...

I shy away from anything that seems extremist or absolutist. Sure, I could do more to get local food (or even just to use the local food I already have) but that could absorb all my time and leave none for renovating for energy efficiency - and that's just an example. Another issue is that when we carry a basically good idea to an extreme, we may get an equally extreme and opposite reaction from other people observing us. Someone observing an extreme locavore's refusal to use lemons, might just say "I would never be a part of that nonsense," and continue to eat California lettuce in June.

Unknown said...

Thanks for stopping by Penelopedia, and for expanding this conversation. I didn't mean to be in-your-face, but Joel Stein, whose piece I quoted, certainly did! I will follow your blog with interest. Best wishes to you in the beautiful Minnesota north, where I'm sure the temperature is well below zero this morning.

Anonymous said...

I am a member of a local food cooperative. They tell us that for every $100 spent locally (any locally owned business), $45 is retained in the local community. This is compared to spending the same amount of money at a national chain where only $13 stays in the community.

The Locavore movement's guidlines for chosing what to eat can be found here: Guidelines for Eating Well

I see the "Eat/Buy Locally" movement as helping my community to thrive and to retain its diversity, in addition to saving fuel by not shipping largely unnecessary food across the world. I'm talking strawberries and asparagus in Winter, not olive oil or coffee or sugar.

Each of us needs to decide on a personal level what is important in our own lives. You can't be a saint ALL the time! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Denise. While I could never be considered a fanatic about it, I do prefer supporting the local economy and efforts to save fuel by not, or reducing shipping of food thousands of miless here that we can darn well grow here. I try to make small changes or take small steps in my lifestyle to accomplish that. Sometimes you do have to step out, tho.

barefoot gardener said...

Good for you, darlin'! I totally agree.

I am all for supporting local business and farms, and even more passionate about providing as much of your own food as possible. Nothing beats food that you have grown from seed or raised from infancy.

However, I don't see how it makes sense to deny ourselves (here in the frozen north) the bounty of foods available to us. There are many things that just can not be grown here without taking crazy measures. Just because I can't grow a decent lemon tree in my backyard, doesn't mean I am willing to give up lemonade!

The trick is to find the balance. I worry that the backlash against the locavore movement will cause people to quit making efforts to know where their food is coming from. It seems that whenever there is such a hugely widespread movement, it does more harm than good. I am just hoping the same doesn't happen in this instance.

I am proud of you for speaking up. Any of your readers who leave you over this weren't worth keeping around, anyhow.

Deb said...

Mojoman- That's the biggest hurdle- getting more people to think about how their actions impact the environment (and the local economy). But at least it's on the radar now, much more so than ten years ago.

Rurality- That's a good point. It's not just about carbon emissions, it's about people and communities.

Penny- thanks for commenting! I didn't mean to sound like you were being "in your face"; I meant that Stein was. Sorry about that!

The temp was hovering right around zero this morning, but it's going to be much colder tonight!

Denise- Thanks for posting the link to the guidelines. That's pretty much how I see it, and it certainly doesn't look "extremist" at all.

Momadness- It does take making small changes gradually. I'm encouraged to see things like our local farmer's market, which did not exist three years ago.

Barefoot- I also strongly believe in growing your own. This winter I've felt a sense of satisfaction every time I chop an onion or cruch a clove of garlic; they came from my own garden, and this fall I didn't even have to buy garlic to plant! But there is the balance; I sautee them in olive oil. Soybean or corn oil may be more local, but for environmental and health reasons I prefer not to use them.

Anonymous said...

Deb: I share your ambivalence about the "eat local" idea. When you live somewhere like Minnesota, I think you have to think very carefully about your choices, and in the middle of winter, those choices often include produce from "away." There was a time when homesteaders would can or root cellar everything they had to live on for the winter, but our lives today hardly support that kind of dedication to the local. I can't imagine working 50 hours a week, plus tending a garden that would feed our family 12 months a year. It would be great to be able to do it, but it's just not realistic for most people.

I think people have good intentions, but there are those who really just don't even understand the reality of below-zero temperatures. I've talked with people who wonder why there just aren't more greenhouses around here or why more gardeners don't use cold frames in the winter. When I explain that greenhouses almost always they have to be heated in the winter, even to grow greens and cool-weather crops, and cold frames won't grow anything at all for at least 3-4 months in a normal winter, people almost don't believe it's really that cold.

Okay, why do we live here again?

Anyway, I really agree with what you've written - I have to, otherwise I'd be eating nothing but old cabbages and carrots all winter long!

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful post Deb. Whether it's localvores or hybrid drivers or whatever, there will always be an element that is as concerned (or more) with the status their "green" decisions give them (in their own minds) as with the actual benefits to the planet and their fellow humans. It can be very off-putting. I value humility above most other virtues, so anybody who toots their own horn too much has a lot less impact on me. I think that goes for a lot of people, so unfortunately, their stridency really harms the movement.

Anyway, you're walking the walk more than just about anybody I know, so I appreciate these thoughts. Cheers.

Deb said...

Tracy- Have you read Eliot Coleman's "Four Season Harvest"? I like the ideas, and have wanted to put them to use here, but he's in coastal Maine, Zone 5 for crying out loud! I don't think any amount of protection will withstand a 20 below zero night.

Dharma Bum- I agree, there are always some that take pride in being "greener than thou". I never really liked the blog groups whose sole purpose, good-intentioned it may have been, was to brag about all the local meals they ate. (Did any of them have kids?) It makes some feel inadequate, others defensive. But at least it has brought the whole subject of food miles into the light. I guess that's good.

Thanks for the vote of confidence. I sometimes forget that I'm living way on the edge. ;)

R.Powers said...

How weird is this? I just read the Joel Stein story today and he reinforced something I had often considered ... that bulk shipment over a long distance can be more efficient than local small shipping.
I like the tone of sensibility and moderation in your commenters. It's nice to support local producers, but I'm not making a religion out of it.

I do avoid summer fruits from the southern hemisphere in our winter time.
I view them as a sign of summer's bounty and it doesn't seem right to eat a peach in December ... unless it's canned.
But, that's just me.

Jennifer said...

How weird... we were JUST talking about this at work yesterday...

Here's my cynical little rant: At the end of the day, we are a small speck in a vast universe. The sun won't burn forever. The planet will eventually disappear. I recognize our misuse of resources, but feel helpless to change it. Momentum is a powerful thing. I try to feed my family healthy meals with a high percentage of fresh stuff, avoiding chemicals and additives wherever I can... for our health and quality of life. It is possible that thousands of years from now, another race of people will be teaching about the technology age and how we overpopulated ourselves right out of existance... just like the Mayans... In the meantime, I will do the best I can and not let guilt over food choices ruin my quality of life.

Jennifer said...

P.S. Where was that Joel Stein article?

Deb said...

Jennifer- oops- I should have posted a link to the original article. Here it is: Joel Stein article.

I feel that way often, like I cannot change the big picture, so I'll do the best I can for the "small" picture- my family, my community. But if enough people live mindfully and make a difference in the "small" picture, I can't help but think the "big" picture will be affected.

Anonymous said...

You have some good points. As with any movement, there's gonna be a broad spectrum of participants, including people who take things to the nth degree. Remember the "simplicity movement?" Seems like every article I read about that started off with "I left my law firm and my husband left investment banking and we bought an old farm..." They never talked about the "simplicity tradition" or "necessary simiplicity" lived by people who weren't DINCs with 6 figure salaries.

I try to let the hype slough off and use whatever's good at the core.