Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Eat Local One Year

By on May 26, 2008

We have exciting opportunity here in Ojai to participate with a group eating locally for one year. Of course, this could happen anywhere but Kristofer and Joanne Young have challenged our community by seeking 100 (or more) volunteers willing to do this together. The group is just getting off the ground and has met once with about 50 interested people – people from Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Saticoy, Ventura, Santa Paula, and Ojai. Though I am not 100% certain this will happen for our family, we are giving it some serious thought. The idea came from Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle where her family documents eating locally for one year. The idea is to eat food within 100 miles of our home for one year.

In Ojai, our 100 mile range is from San Luis Obispo to Delano to Irvine to out in the ocean. A wealth of crops are grown in this region and we can probably have fresh fruits and vegetables year round. I have three major areas of concern with participating. First, protein sources. As vegetarians, bordering on vegan, we need to be certain our protein needs are met from beans, nuts, soy, etc. Since many of those items may not grow around here, we may need to use one of our three exceptions for a consistent protein source. Beyond the protein, there are the things that I just like to eat. For example, I enjoy coffee, tea, bananas, pasta, bread, oatmeal, granola, rice. Today, typical meals would be

Breakfast: smoothie (soy milk, flax oil, protein powder, blueberries, strawberries) and oatmeal (with brown sugar).

Lunch: sandwich (peanut butter/jelly) or grilled cheese; corn chips; salad

Dinner: stir fry (olive oil, garlic, tofu, greens, carrots, etc.) and rice

Other: almonds, coffee, tea, cookie, granola

It seems doable. There are some processed items that would be a challenge. The bread and oatmeal could be tough. My second area of concern is a transition away from organic produce. Our family have been regular organic produce consumers for well over a decade. We are believers in buying organic and have significant problems with conventional farming (both for health reasons and environmental reasons). In this proposed diet, there will be times when we simply will not be able to eat organic. However, does the change outweigh the benefits of eating locally? Food does not need to be shipping in from thousands of miles away. Packaging of food will be close to nil.

My third area of concern is our children. Do we pursue this diet as a family or will it just be the adults? The kids are already picky eaters and this change may be too challenging and too difficult. If they were a little older it would be easier, but with their young age (they will be 5 and 8 years old) it may be too much to ask. Of course, we can try the majority of their diet locally and supplement it with other sources near and dear to their hearts.

So, why would we do this? Last year I ordered frozen strawberries through our food coop, as I often do in the winter months, and was very dismayed to read the strawberries had been grown in China. This isn’t about China, but that Ventura County (where I live) is one of the top producers of strawberries, and I don’t need strawberries from half way around the world. So, my reason is for the environment first. Others include: To support of regional economy. Because we may all be eating locally within 25 years anyway (whether we want to or not!). To build community. To know and understand our food sources.

If we are going to do this diet, starting January 1, 2009, then we need to start preparing now. Going to the Farmers Market every weeked; canning foods; buying a larger freezer to store food; keeping the garden happy and healthy; etc. Food preparation is a labor intensive process that we have lost touch with in our society.

If you live in Ventura or Santa Barbara counties, and this interests you, please visit the Eat Local, One Year web site and sign on.