History has a tendency to repeat itself. The “local food” movement, characterized by citizens obtaining food from farmers in their local community, was widespread before World War II. Over time, technology, globalization, chemical use, and ideals of maximum production began to dominate agriculture and change how and what society ate.
Today, Americans are accustomed to eating FDA-approved produce from across the globe, all year. We find tomatoes, corn, and bananas at the grocery store in February. However, there is growing concern within the food industry that the rising costs of energy for transportation, unfair labor practices, and the negative impact of chemicals used to boost food production are becoming increasingly unsustainable. One way that environmentally- and socially-conscious eaters are addressing these concerns is eating local produce; by becoming a “locavore.”
While it may not be practical to eat completely local, shopping at farmers markets or joining a CSA is a great place to start. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) provides consumers with a direct connection to the farm that produces their food while supporting smaller and family-owned farm operations. CSA members typically make an upfront financial contribution to the farm, and in return, receive education about local food production along weekly shares of the fresh vegetables the farm has to offer. Other perks of joining a CSA are introduction to new foods, knowledge of where and how the food was grown, and a relationship with the grower. Becoming a member of a CSA also comes with the risks inherent in farming, since the harvest and variety a member will see is affected by how well the farm does that year. Joining a CSA also means forfeiting of some of the conveniences of choosing produce at the grocery store.
Typically, CSA membership lasts from June through October. In Denver, there are a variety of CSA options. Purchase a share in the spring and collect your vegetables once a week, or, as some services have begun to offer, have them delivered to your front door. Canning any vegetables that cannot be consumed while still fresh will help you continue to eat local during the off-season.
Here are just a few:
Relying on local food can be a serious challenge. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver provides inspiration and explores the ups and downs of eating local for a year. While it was not always easy for her to be a true “locavore,” she managed to feed her family sufficiently and even throw a large party serving only local grub. Plus there are great recipes in each chapter.
Another book that is particularly inspiring is The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, who also wrote a follow-up novel, In Defense of Food. Both are great ways to get inspired by what is possible, and more importantly cause you to evaluate the food you eat and the way you think about food.
Jessica Zaegel is a first year law student at the University of Denver. As an undergrad she minored in environmental studies, maintained a garden plot at the university farm, and participated in the compost project.