Angela Glore’s food column is printed monthly.
If you’ve had the chance to wander into Jefferson State Books recently, you may have noticed that Jeff stocks a good selection of food-related reading. He’s got the big names — Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Marion Nestle — but also some newer entries into the field. For a month or two starting shortly after Thanksgiving, Jeff was pushing one particular book into my hands every time I walked through the door, so eventually I read it.
“Blessing the Hands That Feed Us” by Vicki Robin is one woman’s story of trying to eat very locally for one abundant, late-summer month on Whidby Island in Washington’s Puget Sound. Challenged by a local farmer, Robin decides to spend September eating only food grown within ten miles of her home. She gives herself a few exotics (caffeine, citrus, and spices) as exceptions, but otherwise explores her 10-mile radius to find secret raw milk exchanges, very expensive frozen chickens, and the kindness of her neighbors and community.
It’s not the first book of its kind. Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is a standout in this genre of extreme local eating. Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and other works provide more detailed arguments for why eating locally is such a win-win proposition. Sunset magazine’s The One-Block Feast and accompanying challenge offer motivation to team up with your neighbors to create an all-local community meal.
What “Blessing the Hands That Feed Us” does well is break this big notion of “eat locally” into manageable steps. It often feels a bit preachy while doing that, but for anyone new to implementing the concept in their own lives it will be useful.
We are lucky to live in a community that is already taking some of those first steps. We have two farmers markets in Crescent City and there are campaigns to get markets started in Klamath, Gasquet, and Smith River as early as this summer. Wild Rivers Market stocks local produce, meat, dairy and eggs year-round.
Our schools are teaching kids to eat locally, too. School meals and Harvest of the Month taste tests regularly highlight local foods. On May 20, Del Norte schools will join Humboldt County schools in the second annual “Taco Tuesday” organized by the Redwood Coast Region of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF). Del Norte’s tacos will feature Oat Hill organic beef raised at and donated by Del Norte’s own Palmer Westbrook Ranch.
Eating locally supports the food producers who live and work among us, cuts down on the fossil fuel needed to bring food to your table and builds a resilient food system for future generations. If you want to do all that and more while you shop, you might want to consider joining an all-local challenge.
For the past two years, Ferment Del Norte members have challenged themselves to eat locally for the whole month of October. Going all local for a month is a tall mountain to climb. But if you’re interested in making the attempt, here are some smaller hills to climb as practice:
For now, try to eat at least two local foods every week. Wild Rivers Market is a good place to look for lots of choices. Once the farmers markets open in late spring, practice incorporating one local food into every day. Explore new options.
In October, turn that practice into further action: Eat something local at every meal. Serve an all-local dinner. Invite your neighbors.
Or even go all in: all local, all October. You’ve got time to plan.