Posted by: beyonddinner | December 6, 2008

local food and me

I’ve greatly enjoyed reading books like Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Plenty (aka the 100-mile diet) which discuss the benefits and the possibility of discovery from eating a diet consisting of food grown locally. I believe it’s a good way to go to the extent that it’s possible in any one person’s climate and financial situation, but I find that I am a little stuck in advancing my family’s ability to each more locally, both mentally and logistically.

We eat a primarily vegan diet at home which consists ideally of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. During the summer we can eat a lot of locally grown vegetables (from our community garden) and fruits, and, if we planned well, we could learn to can and put up some of that bounty for the winter to help keep a good variety of veggies in our diet throughout the cold months. While in the Boston area it’s not hard to find locally grown meat and dairy, and I’m not averse to have meat and dairy every once in a great while, I haven’t yet found any local source of beans and whole grains. One ray of hope is that I just learned of a fairly close source of soy products – Vermont Soy. I’ll have to check out where I can by them close to home.

Also, I’m fairly addicted to leafy green vegetables and I can’t imagine going through a winter without them, or reducing them to just a few hardy souls like cabbage. I’m so glad that we were able to pull out kale, collards, chard and cauliflower greens from our garden all the way into November, but it’s a long, long time until our garden starts producing again next spring.

Another challenge is that I do have one child who is particularly picky. We’ve been working on him for the past few years to broaden his palate beyond white foods (pasta, bread, chicken) to incorporate more fruits and vegetables. Now that he likes kiwis, lettuce, cauliflower, pesto sauce and more, I can’t let those go even if they do come from far away (especially those kiwis!).

One last obstacle for us is cost. We live in one of the most expensive places on the planet on a single salary (earned by me as a librarian and supplemented occasionally by some freelance work by our family writer). Our budget is very, very finite and when we switched to a healthier mode of eating, our food costs shot up substantially. It would be hard to allow that to go any higher. Our local farmers market is very expensive and it’s hard to justify paying those prices when the volume of produce we eat is so high.

So what could I work on in the face of these challenges?

  • Maybe instead of worrying about sourcing my beans and grains locally, I could at least set a goal of them being grown on my continent as a start. For instance the beans I buy probably come from China. Maybe if I could find beans that were grown in Canada, Mexico or the U.S. that would at least reduce the miles that they travel.
  • Maybe in our garden we could learn to construct a cold frame to extend our greens growing season a little bit.
  • I could learn to can things and look out for ways to buy bulk things at the height of the season.
  • Maybe I ought to also appreciate the steps we’ve take so far in reducing our environmental impact of our diet. Just taking meat and diary out of our diets has had an enormous impact. Also, by working a plot in a community garden we’ve participated in a little community building while also nourishing ourselves.
  • Stay ever aware of additional opportunities to eat local. For instance, a friend of mine at work, Ryan, told me about a Cambridge restaurant that serves local food. Perhaps next time we want to eat out we could frequent a place like that.


  1. This is the restaurant that I was referring to:

    You’ll like this article (and the links in it), but it doesn’t quite provide you with a simple answer…I’ll do some research!

  2. Tracy,

    Much of the organic produce, including the beans you mention, sources from China. In fact, I do not understand why domestically grown American beans cost significantly more than Chinese beans. Beans play an integral role in sustainable agriculture, fixing their own nitrogen, preventing erosion and reducing toxicity among many benefits.

    In any case, we can help change this dynamic by requesting our local stores to source locally to the extent possible, or, at most, from North America. The new labeling law will play an important role in identifying the source of food products.


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