Friday, February 29, 2008

Finding an alternative to a 'Local Foods Pledge'

I've been asked by a group of folks who are putting together a local foods directory for Greater Cincinnati to write a 'Local Foods Pledge' to include in the directory. In general, I disagree with the concept, but I do want to help this group. So I'm trying to come up with something.

I'm thinking along the lines of providing a list of steps folks might take in trying to eat more locally, putting them into some general order of easiest and least time-consuming to most challenging, and then inviting folks to choose a point on the local eating scale they're going to aim for this year.

For instance:

Choose local over non-local when offered
Learn what produce is in season when
Switch to local honey & maple syrup
Switch to pastured eggs
Switch to local wines
Visit a farmers' market once a week
Add seasonal recipes to my collection
Freeze a frequently-used item during the season (berries, applesauce, tomatoes, corn, onions, peppers)
Can a frequently-used item during the season (preserves, tomato sauce, tomato paste, enchilada sauce, chile sauce, pickles)
Join a CSA
Purchase a side of grass-fed beef (or half a pastured pig)
Join a herdshare

This is just off the top of my head, and I'm not sure I have them ordered correctly. For instance, is joining a CSA, which requires a weekly trip to pick up the CSA box, more onerous than purchasing half a beef which then must be fitted into the home freezer? Is canning more of a challenge for most people than where I've placed it? Is visiting a farmers' market weekly easier than switching to local wines? I put 'switch to local honey and syrup' ahead of 'switch to pastured eggs' because I figure people only buy honey/syrup every once in a while but many buy eggs weekly, but maybe eggs are easier?

What other steps could folks take? Where would they fit into the scale?

All suggestions and advice gratefully accepted!


Audrey said...

That's a pretty good-looking list. I like your idea of a 'local food' pyramid. For me diversifying home cooking skills has definitely helped with local eating. Or maybe that is implied in all the ingredients you mention. And what about Pollan and others' suggestion that we should eat more plants and less meat? Good luck with the project!

valereee said...

Thanks, Audrey! I think you're right, cooking skills are a necessity. When you buy food with a single ingredient, you pretty much have to know ways to put them together to make a meal.

I've been trying lately to also reduce our total meat consumption. A big pot of soup with a pound of ground chicken, a pound of kale, and a pound of beans that makes ten servings, for instance. Meat as an ingredient rather than the center of a meal. We still do end up with meals that center around the meat (I made pot roast Friday night) but I'm trying to keep in mind that the meat doesn't have to be the star every night. One of the things that I'm hoping will help with that is buying a split half of a cow this year. We'll only receive so many steaks and roasts -- the rest of the cuts will be more appropriately used as ingredients. I've also been buying a lot of chopped meat -- pork, beef, chicken, lamb -- and that really lends itself to 'meat as ingredient' thinking.