Monday, April 27, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
While fuel consumption is an issue when it comes to eating locally versus from factory farms, it is not the only concern.
There are really three goals: Local, sustainable, organic. Local generally assumes all three. Why do I care?
Local is best because we are then getting in-season produce that is spared the long journey that requires excess fuel and makes the food days old before it even becomes available to us in the grocery store. The argument proposes that it takes more fuel to start plants in a greenhouse in cooler climates (such as Maine), than it does to transport them. I vow to dig up more information on this.
In the meantime, what kinds of vegetables and fruits are we talking about? Plants such cucumbers, pepper and tomatoes do take a few weeks of indoor growing before they can be planted outside here, but many others - carrots, peas, spinach, potatoes - can be planted right in the ground making it unnecessary for any extra fuel to be spent. I still doubt the energy requirements for starting cucumbers indoors is greater than what it takes for them to arrive from South America, but I'll see if I can back that up. Fruits and veggies that require even warmer/longer growing seasons - citrus and bananas - are simply not a part of the true locavore's diet. That person would need to get their vitamin C and potassium from other sources.
There are still other benefits to eating locally. Eating food that comes from your neighborhood farmer ensures freshness, which means it has retained the greatest amount of nutrients. Plus, small farms can grow a wider variety of produce. Fruits can be selected for their taste and nutritional value instead of for their ability to resist pests and travel long distances.
Speaking of pests, let's look at the benefits of organic food, meaning the use of chemical pesticides, and in the case of livestock, antibiotics and growth hormones, is restricted. Pointing out the obvious, I don't want to eat chemicals. These chemicals do have health risks for humans. Less obvious is the negative effects they have on the plants. The more chemical pesticides are used, the less effective they become, as the pests build up resistance.
Another issue is genetically modified plants, commonly grown by factory farms. As I already mentioned resistance to chemicals and pests, and ability to survive transport play more of important role here than taste and nutritional value. I don't think I have to tell you which choice I would make. Who wants a pink, mealy, tastely tomato, when they can eat a red, juice, sweet one?
The third issue is sustainability. Here's where I real know the least. It is also the issue that has the greatest global consequences. My basic understanding is something like this: Farms that follow sustainable practices (generally organic, not genetically engineered food, crop rotation) will survive the longest. This means they can stay put rather than move to another area, cutting down more trees. This means we can feed the world for longer without creating more global warming. OK, I may be seriously off base on this one, so I'll stand corrected if so. I'll also vow to do some more research.
Then, there is a bonus to eating locally: less packaging. Even if I eat organic produce that I buy in the supermarket, I have to buy it in a package. No matter how much I try to recycle some of that inevitably ends up in landfills. By eating local veggies, especially if I grow them in my own garden, I have much greater control over how much packaging is used.
I was also told that the global economy would suffer if we stopped buying food from South America. I'm not an economist, and never will try to be even an amateur one. But, I have two thoughts... I prefer to think that it is more important for me to support the local economy than the abstract global one. I don't even believe that the people of Costa Rica are benefiting if I buy their bananas. I think some large corporation that could be based in the U.S. or elsewhere is benefiting. Secondly, my simple mind thinks that all the reasons above are more important than money.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I bought eggs, milk, dried apricots, dried cranberries, granola, yeast, wheat germ and honey.
I plan to use the yeast to help support my newly-formed bread making habit. The granola and dried fruit will be used for the granola bars I hope to make this afternoon.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Those I've told have mostly responded with something like, "What? The snow's gone?" Well, yes, indeed it is. And, just about everything I've read on gardening say peas and spinach go in "as soon as the ground can be worked." So, in they are.
Initially, I was pretty happy that it would rain the day after the seeds were planted. Now, I'm a bit worried that it may have rained too hard. It was really coming down last night. I guess we'll see.
My other big accomplishment has been baking bread. For just over a week now, we've had only homemade bread in the house.
I'm not sure this is the recipe I'm going to stick with. I like it. It's a pretty hardy whole wheat. But, Dan prefers his bread a bit whiter. So, we'll have to see. I could always alternate this one with a loaf of German sweet bread.
Well, someone is sick of his ExcerSaucer and typing one handed isn't very efficient. So, mommy duty calls.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
The hundred mile diet (not diet, as in to lose weight, but as in what you eat) in Maine will not include citrus then either? I think it would be difficult to raise a healthy boy to his potential without the proper protein of meat. Ethical treatment of animals is important to me also! Why should an animal suffer through its short life to feed me and my family? Also, farmed fish (not in the ocean, but in pools on land) is something of a recent obsession of mine as far as educating myself and it's impact on the environment and other fish in the sea. Ocean farmed fish is really terrible in that respect, but I don't want to get myself started here!
If I decided to strictly adhere to the 100 mile diet, it would not include citrus. But, I will probably always allow citrus as one of my many exceptions (along with chocolate and coffee). If I got down to it, I could find a way to get Florida oranges that traveled with my family who was traveling that way anyway. However, there are other good ways of getting vitamin C. Leafy greens and green peppers can both by grown in cooler climates, and the greens can be grown indoors all year round. If that's what I choose to do. But, I'll probably just keeping eating citrus in the winter.
I definitely do not intend to go "veggie." Much more likely is that I would buy local, organically raised meat. Although I tried being a vegetarian at one point, I'm a firm believer that humans are meant to be omnivores. However, the abuse of animals in factory farms does bother me. And selfishly, I'm concerned with the effects on my health that the way these animals are fed and treated have. For example, chickens that are fed a diet of grass and bug lay eggs that are higher in omega-3's than chickens that are grain fed.
As for fish, I really don't know much. I boil it down to this... Why do I want to pay the price (environmentally) for the fuel needed to transport and refrigerate haddock that comes from Norway, when I can pay the same cash for better tasting haddock that comes from Portland, while supporting the local economy?
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
For instance, the laundry basket provides minutes of endless entertainment. (Notice, I'm talking minutes, not hours. Nothing will captivate for hours; that would be unspeakable). This mundane household tool is fun to ride in. A full basket can be used to pull up on, or be emptied with clothes strewn across the floor. And, an empty basket is light enough to push around. Amazing.
Other things that offer great amusement are Mommy's and Daddy's shoes. I keep telling Bear they are yucky, but he insists they really are yummy. Especially yummy are the rubber soles of Daddy's beat up shoes that have walked all over creation. In case anyone wonders, we do discourage this activity, but he keeps going back.
And then there's the parental favorite. An object hidden inside a closed container. When I say "minutes" of entertainment here, I'm talking double digits.