Sunday, September 28, 2008

food awareness: local or loca?

For the past year or so I've tried to be more and more conscious of what I put in my mouth.

(Get your mind out of the gutter!)

As I get older and my body processes food differently, I want to make sure that I'm putting less crap in. As I educate myself on agricultural issues, I want to make sure I'm supporting the future by making smart buying choices. And as I taste food from local farms it reawakens tastes from my childhood -- tastes that have been systematically removed from our food supply by the interest of big business.

Try it, eat a tomato from the grocery store and then eat one from the farmer's market. Even eat an organic tomato from the grocery store. The tastes don't even compare.

2008 has been a banner year for me in food self-education.

It started by making the choice with three of my friends to become shareholders in a CSA for the summer. After attending a Spring Open House at the Urban Ecology Center, we opted to be members of Rare Earth Farm. Despite a couple hiccups (especially thanks to the June floods), I have been completely thrilled with the decision to do this. I am participating again next year regardless of the decisions of my co-investors.

Another huge education tool for me has been subscribing to food blogs via my Google Reader. Thanks to suggested links and clicking through posts my friends share, I've found loads of resources out there on various food and agricultural issues. One resource that kept coming up (and who had a table at the aforementioned Moo & Brew event earlier this year) was Slow Food Nation. Recently I decided to become a member of that and joined the Southeastern Wisconsin convivia. Provided the Brewers playoff schedule does not interfere, I will be attending my first event for that in October.

I honestly feel though that all of my local food self-education has come to a head in the last week.

Last Monday I purchased the book Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver at the Powell's in the Portland Airport. I haven't finished yet, but I've been unable to put the book down. It's such an easy read with a conversational tone that makes you forget (almost) that it's cramming you with useful information. I bought it to learn about seasonal eating, but am learning about so much more, especially the politics behind farming. It's a fascinating read and one I absolutely recommend.

I returned to town and found out that Growing Power, a non-profit I visited once for work, had gotten some serious national recognition. Growing Power has been in the back of my mind for awhile as somewhere I would like to volunteer. I would like to resolve that after the campaign is over that I will go to a volunteer orientation there.

Then today I had to present at Milwaukee's first Sustainable Living Conference at the Urban Ecology Center. Despite having a very limited voice (from being sick and then cheering for the Brewers on Friday night), my presentation squeaked out just fine. BUT, before my own talk (on transportation alternatives) I had the pleasure of attending some of the other sessions. The one that truly resonated with me was about eating locally. I went to the talk looking for a "how," but was really engaged by the discussion amongst the panel of the larger issues at hand in moving beyond, what one presenter put it, "the hot pocket culture."

There's a lot spinning around in my head on what I feasibly can do. I know I just missed Wisconsin's Eat Local Challenge. I know I cannot commit to the National Eat October Local Challenge due to a crazy October on the books, but there are smaller things I can do.

So where am I starting?

I pledged to eat one local meal a day for the month of October. Even if that means just eating an apple for breakfast from a local orchard, I'm committed to doing it. And I truly do hope to keep this blog more active with updates.

Wish me luck!

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