One of the best and tastiest change you can make in your life to live a little simpler is by supporting local food systems. The packaging and transport of homogeneously grown food is largely responsible for our current economic and ecological predicament. To counteract this enormously wasteful system, we can purchase food from local farmers and producers. Farmer’s markets are a good place to start. A CSA share is another option - where you pay up front for a season’s worth of vegetables and fruits that get delivered on a weekly basis. CSA programs usually require a few hours of time helping out on the farm, which means you get to know your farmer face to face. Personally, I like the idea of knowing where and more importantly who my food comes from; it creates a moral connection and farmers are more likely to take care of their customers if they know them personally. Communities are built by each individuals’ economic habits and decisions. Economy and community can be integrated as a harmonious system, instead of separate parts of one’s life. Community is fostered when individuals choose to purchase food locally, or choose to support a local restaurant instead of a chain.
After reading Bill McKibben’s book Deep Economy, and reading about his “one year of eating local”, I came up with a personalized food plan that I felt I could practice in my own city, a plan which would support a local food system. I may not have all of the food resources that McKibben has in Vermont, but once I began to look, I found I could fulfill many of my food needs within a few miles! No more grocery stores for me! An added benefit is that when I buy things directly from the farmer or through my CSA, there is no packaging to dispose of (and the worms love the green scraps). Here is a guide to how you can create your own local food plan with your local resources.
-CSA Membership - This is a seasonal membership through which I receive all of my vegetables. I plan meals around what is available in my CSA box, instead of what I want, when I want it. I’m part of an Urban CSA - a small, intensive operation in the heart of the city that I live in. The collective house that I lived in gets their shared produce from a more suburban farm with larger capacities.
- Local Restaurants Only - This means I do not be eat at any chain restaurants, so that I am only supporting family-owned businesses instead of a rich corporation. I live in a city with an abundance of amazing ethnic restaurants, and I couldn’t cut out restaurants all together, but I can definitely choose wisely when I do go out. Increasingly, there are restaurants that cook with local ingredients, and those establishments are part of my local food plan also.
-Farmer’s Market for Meat and non-CSA purchases - This fills in the gaps of the CSA share. There is an urban Farmer’s Market once a week in the city I live in, and another one the next town over in a quaint New England village green. Between the two, I am able to get all of my eggs, honey, dairy, and meat (as well as fruits that my CSA doesn’t cover) that I need. Another option would be finding an egg CSA or a meat CSA, both of which exist, but not in my area as far as I know. I don't eat much meat, but Matt does and so this is an important resource.
- Local Farm Stands - Farm stands are more frequently open than the once-a-week farmer’s market, and I know a few local places that sell their own beef and produce. Similarly, there are always little signs on the side of the road just outside of the city - “Fresh Eggs” or “Local Honey”, almost like a novice farmer’s adult lemonade stand.
As you can see, I can find just about everything I need within bicycling distance, and I bet you can too if you look. I know I’ll end up going to the Indian market once in awhile, because it’s the only place I can find certain kinds of flour, but this plan is feasible and connects me to my community and the seasons in a meaningful way. The biggest difference between this plan and my previous “anything goes” approach is that it moves away from the idea that we can have whatever we want, whenever we want it (that's an anthropocentric perspective). This attitude is what leads to many unsustainable behaviors, such as each person driving their own car, each person having their own home, and sharing nothing. I’m glad to have changed my habits for the better, even if it means I have to wait a week to prepare a certain meal.