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Keep it Local, Stupid

A large part of how we view food supply  is based on where we live.  For instance, when I lived in Costa Rica, it was easy enough to get fresh roasted coffee beans from an organic farm that grows its coffee in the shade.  When I went to the beach for a weekend, it was not difficult at all to go for a walk and pick up a coconut that had recently fallen from a tree.  (The difficult part is splitting the coconut, which a good friend of mine showed me requires only a little strength and a lot of persistence.)  When on a road trip in Mongolia, we stopped by a very simple, low-technology cheese farm, and I am not exaggerating when I say that was some of the best cheese I’ve ever had in my life.  In short, there is something to be said for getting an ingredient straight from the source.

But maybe you don’t happen to live near a rainforest or a crop plantation.  Maybe you don’t live down the street from a cheese farm.  Some places are easier than others to find farmers’ markets, and especially affordable ones.  In any case, it never hurts to research what local farms may exist near you.  Growing up in Las Vegas, I always heard of a pig farm somewhere north of town, and we could smell it sometimes, but that was about it.  Most of our produce and meats came from California.  And most of it was pretty tasteless.  Now, Vegas has a few farmers’ markets but they are not particularly convenient or affordable.  Whole Foods offers a much less financially practical alternative.

The good news is, Vegas is kind of unique in this sense, because it is in the middle of the Mojave Desert where almost nothing grows.  So, unless you also live in the middle of a desert, chances are good that you can get at least some of your produce and other goods from local sources.

Why is local important?  Well, if you have ever had a fresh piña colada in the tropics, you know the difference.  The taste is absolutely incomparable to anything that has been imported and sitting on a shelf for who knows how long in cold preservation.  Especially with tropical fruits, it seems like the sweetness has just been sucked right out of the plant.  There is an obvious, added freshness benefit for most dairy and meats.  Some Eastern philosophies place great importance on the freshness of ingredients and attribute good overall health in part to clean, simple cooking.

So.  A general rule of thumb is to seek out local products where possible.  Environmental responsibility and animal-friendly farming (I know, a contradiction in terms for some) are important factors that impact how “pure” the product is.  Try to get pesticide-free, crop-rotated produce, and steroid-free, open range (not just cage free) meats and poultry, wild-caught fish with honorable fishing practices (no long line fishing for example), and non-hormone dairy from un-penned, grazing cows will not only help the world in some small way and bring you some good karma, but it’s simply better for you as well.

In some areas, co-ops will give a decent price to paying members who request a weekly bag full of whatever is in season.  Worth looking into!

2 Responses to “Keep it Local, Stupid”

  1. jenny says:

    Yeah, I keep putting off calling some different CSAs (community supported agriculture) for my produce. I hear stories about getting boxes of rutabagas, LOL, but I need to just do it. My attempt at organic gardening last summer was sort of sad but I did supply the neighborhood with the best grape tomatoes I ever tasted.

  2. ssilva2010 says:

    Rutabagas… you know, as far as tubers go I have been wanting to attempt the celeriac… maybe somewhere down the road, not quite ready for it. There is going to be a whole post (and maybe even section) on DIY organic farming, working up to it. It sounds to me like your attempt was rather successful! hehe

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