Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ten Reasons to Buy Local Food

This is not original with me; I've read several versions of "Ten Reasons". This one is from a publication entitled "Growing for Market".

It is so vitally important that I have copied it here.

10 Reasons to Buy Local Food

1. Locally grown food tastes better.

Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It's crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Produce flown or trucked in from California, Florida, Chile or Holland is, quite understandably, much older. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. In a week-long (or more) delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality.

2. Local produce is better for you.

A recent study showed that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly. Food that is frozen or canned soon after harvest is actually more nutritious than some "fresh" produce that has been on the truck or supermarket shelf for a week. Locally grown food, purchased soon after harvest, retains its nutrients.

3. Local food preserves genetic diversity.

In the modern industrial agricultural system, varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand harvesting equipment; for a tough skin that can survive packing and shipping; and for an ability to have a long shelf life in the store. Only a handful of hybrid varieties of each fruit and vegetable meet those rigorous demands, so there is little genetic diversity in the plants grown. Local farms, in contrast, grow a huge number of varieties to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors, and the best flavors. Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation, because they taste good. These old varieties contain genetic material from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selection; they may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate.

4. Local food is GMO-free.

Although biotechnology companies have been trying to commercialize genetically modified fruits and vegetables, they are currently licensing them only to large factory-style farms. Local farmers don't have access to genetically modified seed, and most of them wouldn't use it even if they could. A June 2001 survey by ABC News showed that 93% of Americans want labels on genetically modified food - most so that they can avoid it. If you are opposed to eating bioengineered food, you can rest assured that locally grown produce was bred the old-fashioned way, as nature intended.

5. Local food supports local farm families.

With fewer than 1 million Americans now claiming farming as their primary occupation, farmers are a vanishing breed. And no wonder - commodity prices are at historic lows, often below the cost of production. The farmer now gets less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food - which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the work they love.

6. Local food builds community.

When you buy direct from the farmer, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection between the eater and the grower. Knowing the farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the weather, and the miracle of raising food. In many cases, it gives you access to a farm where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture. Relationships built on understanding and trust can thrive.

7. Local food preserves open space.

As the value of direct-marketed fruits and vegetables increases, selling farmland for development becomes less likely. You have probably enjoyed driving out into the country and appreciated the lush fields of crops, the meadows full of wildflowers, the picturesque red barns. That landscape will survive only as long as farms are financially viable. When you buy locally grown food, you are doing something proactive about preserving the agricultural landscape.

8. Local food keeps your taxes in check.

Farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas suburban development costs more than it generates in taxes, according to several studies. On average, for every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, governments must spend $1.17 on services, thus requiring higher taxes of all taxpayers. For each dollar of revenue raised by farm, forest, or open space, governments spend 34 cents on services.

9. Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife.

A well-managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued. Good stewards of the land grow cover crops to prevent erosion and replace nutrients used by their crops. Cover crops also capture carbon emissions and help combat global warming. According to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage could sequester 12-14% of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry. In addition, the habitat of a farm - the patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings - is the perfect environment for many beloved species of wildlife, including bluebirds, killdeer, herons, bats, and rabbits.

10. Local food is about the future.

By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful, and abundant food.

Buy local food. Sustain local farms.

"10 Reasons to Buy Local Food" ©2001 Growing for Market. Permission to print and photocopy is granted.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Theory of Anyway

I have a small degree of fame (or maybe infamy!) in certain Internet forums for having been the first person on those forums to articulate and name "The Theory of Anyway." The name is catchy enough that it seems to be sticking to the concept in Peak Oil circles.

I had not written about it here yet. There's no particular reason why I hadn't - I just hadn't tackled it yet. And now a friend, Sharon Astyk, has written a very lovely explanation of it on her blog, which is really delightful because now I don't have to. I just love it when Sharon writes something and then I don't have to....especially because she writes so well and so gracefully. (I wonder if this is a gift born with an individual, or something that can be developed with effort?)

Sharon's post is here (but please come back here after you have read it, because I'd like to add just a few, almost random, thoughts to what Sharon has written):


Sharon wrote: "I am obligated to live rightly, in part because of what living rightly gives me - integrity, honor, joy, a better relationship with my diety of choice, peace."

I'd like to emphasize the 'joy' and 'peace' parts.

I think that chasing status and material goods (or the Almighty Dollar) clearly does not lead to either joy or peace. Look around you at the people you know who are engaged in these pursuits. Do you think they are really happy? Do they seem to have joy in their lives? I don't think so. The status- or dollar-chasers who I have observed seem to be quite unhappy for the most part, and some are clearly nervous wrecks.

"His Holiness, the Dalai Lama describes two kinds of selfish people: the unwise and the wise. Unwise selfish people think only of themselves, and the result is confusion and pain. Wise selfish people know that the best thing they can do for themselves is to be there for others. As a result, they experience joy." (When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron, Shambhala Publishing, Boston, 1997, p. 88).

In 1976, I first read Frances Moore Lappe's seminal book "Diet for a Small Planet." This book introduced me to the idea that the details of our daily lives matter; they make a difference to the world. Wow! I hadn't thought of that before reading this book. I found it to be very empowering (and still do).

We cannot all give up everything and go to the Sinai Desert to be contemplative nuns or monks. We cannot all be relief workers in Africa. But we can all make a difference nevertheless, just by the choices we make in every day life.

What an empowering concept that really is! I also find it very empowering that this is an ongoing lifetime commitment and not a one-shot deal. If you mess up today.... Well, you get more chances to make decisions and choices tomorrow, and hopefully they will be more skillful decisions and choices than those of today.

Reading that changed my life, and since then I've been at least trying to make my everyday choices (as well as the larger life-changing decisions) in accord with this idea. Life keeps getting in the way, of course, as it does for all of us, in the form of family responsibilities, the need to earn a living, and ill health: sometimes I've had more success than at other times. It's an ongoing journey, one that continues for life.

With specific reference to Peak Oil preparations, I think there's a terrific psychological difference determined by the frame of mind in which one takes certain actions. Supposing, for example, you are going to cover your windows with clear plastic in winter, to save on energy.

Well, you can think of yourself as being forced into this act by Peak Oil, by global warming, or for economic reasons. There's not much joy in taking defensive actions.

But if you can think of it as contributing to "the repair of the world," then you have a totally different view of the action. Now you can really be happy about it: you have made a difference (however small) by this action. You have conserved resources for those who desperately need them (especially if you contribute the money that you save to a charity), you have lessened your contribution to global warming and to air pollution. Wow! This is a good thing.

Over time, these points of view have an effect on your personality and character. The defensive or "forced to do this" motivation tends to harden and close you, shutting you away from others. The "repair of the world" motivation tends to awaken compassion in you, to soften you towards others.

"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." (Albert Einstein)

At least five of the world's great religions (Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism) stress "the repair of the world". I think Judaism probably says it most clearly. The Hebrew expression is "Tikkun Olam" - the repair of the world - and this is an obligation of observant Jews.

In Buddhism, the same idea is beautifully expressed in "The Bodhisattva's Vow," by Shantideva, written in the 8th Century CE, which contains this line: "For as long as space endures and for as long as living beings remain, until then may I too abide to dispel the misery of the world."

Christianity has Jesus' exhortation to his followers: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This can be extended to environmental causes, and Peak Oil as, obviously, others would enjoy clean air and sufficient resources to enable them to live decently.

Hinduism states "This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you," from the Mahabharata, (5:15:17) (ca. 500BCE), and Mohammed spoke to Islam saying "Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you," (c. 571 – 632 CE) in The Farewell Sermon. The BaHa'i faith teaches "Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not. Blessed is he who prefers his brother before himself,” (Tablets of Baha’u’llah 6.71).


Comments Reinstated

Upon reflection, I'm reinstating 'Comments' here. So .... comment away, if you wish to.

Pat (who is trying for the Shortest Blog Posting Award of 2007!)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

My Mailing Lists and Others

It has somewhat belatedly occurred to me that maybe I should mention here the two mailing lists that I own, in case any readers of the blog are interested. One is devoted to growing edible plants in containers, and the other is devoted to healthy but frugal cooking.

They are here:


and here:


Other mailing lists that might interest you:

About Peak Oil and possible consequences:



Another gardening list, this one perhaps more suitable for experienced gardeners than for absolute beginners. It's a very nice list, friendly, and I always enjoy it. It is dedicated to the subject of heirloom (open-pollinated) plants, but is not dogmatic about it.


And last -


Frugal Rural Living discusses a miscellany of topics.