Nonfiction Nagging- Eat Local! Or Don't...

Growing up, I was not a fan of vegetables, and fruits were ways behind the list of baked goods and ice cream. My mom offered both to us, although fruits were definitely more plentiful that the canned and frozen green beans, corn, and peas that we were served at dinner. After I started college I are salads more often since the UCLA's dorm dining offers some great, fresh choices, and now as an adult I eat one for lunch almost every work day. After becoming a vegetarian this spring I have made a tremendous effort to get in at least two servings of fruit a day and three or four of vegetables. And I've been quite proud of myself- I've successfully made the transition to herbivore. I'm like a little brontosaurus.
And then I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and realized that apparently my increase in fruits and vegetables weren't enough. Kingsolver advocates a purely regional, local diet, allowing consumers to be completely aware of what they're putting into their bodies. This diet based on proximity also cuts down on transportation cost and waste (allegedly), and, since the products are organic, it also reduces pesticides (allegedly) and soil contamination. By taking it a step further and growing your own produce and raising your own meat you can save money and truly develop a relationship with your food. You become healthier, more aware, and environmentally conscious.  

Kingsolver's family made it their mission to embrace locavorism- they moved to a house in the country and decided to live locally for a year. They started a massive garden, raised poultry, shopped at their farmer's markets, harassed grocers over where produce came from, preserved their produce for winter months, and even bought flour from a local mill for the bread her husband made from scratch everyday. It was a complete family affair- one of Kingsolver's younger daughters raised chickens in order to sell, with their eggs and her other one became very involved with cooking and recipe creation. It was definitely an ambitious undertaking and the project was incredibly successful- they managed to eat almost completely locally, save a ton of money, and revolutionize their health. Kingsolver includes extensive research on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), soil health, heirloom vegetables, economics, and our ability to make more than we do (like cheese!).

It sounds like a great plan, and there are definitely aspects of the locavore movement that I applaud. I buy almost all my produce at a local farmer's markets of sorts called Tom's Farm (I'm quite skeptical about some of their produce being local, though; I asked the cashier and he named some local farms but also added that some of their products come from LA- I resisted the urge to ask him if they were picked up from the docks in San Pedro...). I try to buy organic as long as it's not terribly more expensive (especially of the Dirty Dozen), and I've even fantasized about turning my landscaped backyard into a garden (realistically not happening). 

On the other hand, there are some definite issues when it comes to being a locavore. First of all is cost. Most people don't have the space for huge farms, which means that they need to buy organic- this costs more. Also, eating as a locavore means eating what's in season- that means no apples in February, no tomatoes in December, and no bananas, ever, unless you live in Ecuador. Not to mention the fact that recent studies have shown that eating organically isn't necessarily healthier in terms of vitamins and minerals (no one disputes taste, though). Organic farmers still use some pesticides and it's truly hard to find things that have been genetically modified at some point in time (although I will be voting "yes" on Prop 37 in California that calls for GMO labeling). Transportation costs can also be debated. Sure, it costs a lot of money to transport thousands of tons of avocados from California to Massachusetts, but we have to use a per fruit/vegetable ratio- how much is it costing for a small farmer to bring a few boxes thirty miles to a farmer's market? 

Kingsolver and her family admittedly went to the extreme- they were passionate in being locavores and had something to prove to themselves. I don't feel the need to get quite that dramatic, but after living in California's Central Valley for fourteen years I can assure you local does taste better. So, while I won't be turning the area above my pool into an area for growing tomatoes and lettuce, I will continue to increase my fruit and vegetable intake and will try to be as conscientious about where I'm buying from.


  1. Eating locally is something I could be better about. There are great farmer's markets here every single weekend. (Although, I'm not sure how they look in the winter.) I just need to get in the habit of hitting them up on Saturday morning.*

  2. I enjoyed this book. I did it on audio and it was interesting to hear Kingsolver tell her own story in her own voice

  3. I've been wanting to read this book for a while, ever since I read The 100 Mile Diet - the story of a couple in Vancouver for decide to eat locally (and if I remember correctly - they were both vegetarians). The chapters alternate between their voices which made it real and honest. They had to cut out all wheat products because the closest wheat fields are over 100 miles away when you live in BC. was a very interesting and eye-opening read. I think what fascinated me the most was the time and energy that went in to eating locally. We take so much of our food and convenience of food for granted.

  4. I keep meaning to read this! We eat almost all organic and as local as possible, but try telling a toddler who willingly eats 3 plants that she can't have her beloved bananas because they come from too far away. Yeah...I compromise a bit on that one!