Friday, January 2, 2009

Why I'm Doing This - My First Post

This experiment began as a school project in a non-fiction class right after I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Here's an excerpt from the project that pretty much explains it all, but the thing is, once the assignment was over, I didn't feel like I was finished, so I decided to start this blog and really dedicate myself to exploring eating locally as it manifests in a different climate.

In the past four years, the local food movement has gained considerable, nationwide popularity. Articles on eating locally have been featured in “The New York Times,” “O” Magazine, “Gourmet,” “Bon App├ętit” and many other large publications as more people are interested in becoming Locavores. The term Locavore was Oxford Dictionary’s 2007 word of the year and was coined to describe members of the local food movement who only eat food grown and produced within a certain radius from their home. After hearing so much about eating locally, I wanted to give it a try, especially after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Michael Pollan’s manifesto The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Eating foods locally grown and produced feels like the right choice. Local eating supports local economies and small farmers. It reduces the use of dangerous fossil fuels used to process and transport food products around the world and fresh foods picked or preserved in season just taste better. I didn’t need any convincing about this because as a child growing up in rural southern Delaware, eating locally wasn’t a social movement a bunch of hippies came up with to save the planet, it was our normal way of life and always had been. The thing is, I don’t live in rural Delaware anymore. I live in largely urban, densely populated South Florida and I live in an apartment, so plowing up my yard and sowing a row of pole beans isn’t exactly a viable option being that I don’t have a yard. In fact, I don’t even have a balcony for a container garden. I wondered if because of these constraints, I might be excluded from the local food movement.

I began to research Locavorism. Just Google the term and you’ll find thousands of results. You’ll find websites directing you to different businesses and farms, instructions on how to grow apples right in your yard, blogs about other Locavores’ experiences and you’ll find hundreds of testimonials about how great eating locally is for the environment, your body and some say even your soul. But pretty soon I began to notice a disturbing pattern. Every single one of these websites, blogs and articles described eating locally in a temperate climate and none of them even considered how the lifestyle might play out in parts of the country that don’t experience the distinct, traditional four seasons. Sure, we have seasons here in Florida, but they’re the Rainy Season, Hurricane Season and Tourist Season. In Palm Beach they experience another season known as the Social Season, but like the others, it doesn’t have a lot to do with growing your own food. I wondered if it was only possible to be a Locavore in New England, Northern California or the verdant Pacific Northwest.

I spent a few days sulking about this. I felt disenfranchised and left out in the same way that I feel when I see TV shows, greeting cards and commercials depicting white Christmases; kind of jealous at first and then mad that the media just assumes everyone lives in a temperate climate where leaves redden in autumn, snow sugar coats the winters and summers look like a Hidden Valley Ranch commercial. It’s discrimination, I say. They’re all just Temperists, looking down on all those other, lesser, alternative climates. I figured to the Locavores, we here in the sub-tropics either didn’t count or maybe eating locally down here didn’t exist because it couldn’t be done.

Soon I realized though, that eating locally is entirely possible in a tropical climate. People in the Caribbean have been doing just fine for hundreds of years on local diets, so clearly it can be done and if it can be done then I can do it too. If I were to adopt a local eating lifestyle I knew would have to be creative and learn about what foods live and grow best down here. So now, on January 2nd, I'm beginning my experiment in earnest. I've been experimenting already a bit here and there for a little over a year, but now I'm getting serious.

Unlike some, such as Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon, authors of Plenty: Eating Locally on The 100 Mile Diet, I'm not willing to take a pledge to eat nothing that isn’t produced or grown near my home. Ultimately this is ideal, but I don’t yet even know if that's completely possible where I live. I'm not about to take that kind of a risk, making a promise I might not be able to keep. Instead, the parameters of my experiment are going to be a lot looser. I'm going to actively research and seek out the foods indigenous to my tropical environment. I will try to adopt a more native diet and I will try as many new things as possible. I will be conscious of my food’s origins and try to give up as many foods shipped from far away as I can. Without a guide or a website on how to do it, I’ll have to put in more effort, do some research and expand my ways of thinking about how and what I eat. I hope this blog will ultimately become a guide for others in South Florida seeking to do the same thing and not knowing where to start.

1 comment:

  1. My wife and I sort of entered into a similar deal after having been inspired by friends in Seattle (http://www.cooklocal.com). I'm from Puerto Rico and she's native Miamian, so we know full well what's available here and how hard it is to eat local, but we set out to do it anyway.

    We keep kosher, so that trumps everything, but otherwise it's been so-so. Farmer's Markets down here are exercises in false advertising, so it makes things more difficult. When we can't find local we shoot for organic, and indeed have recently joined an Organic Buying Club/CSA to see how that helps us.

    When defining "local" for these purposes, we quickly realized that due to Florida geography, the 100-mile radius is just not possible; aside from Homestead/Redlands, most Florida farms begin almost at the edge of that measurement. We extended "local" to the whole state, and we've fared a bit better.

    Being a locavore down here is hard, as you have surely found out, but little by little. It's cool I found your blog. I'll be following along now. You can find ours at http://www.slowbikemiami.com

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