Return to Community Through Local Food

Spring Blooms At UW
Spring Blooms At UW

Spring is in the air! For us Seattleites, spring is not exactly like the season seen in movies or television. Spring in Seattle is like a bipolar transition between seasons: Mother Nature changes her mind frequently and without warning until May or June when the weather finally evens out to the best-kept Seattle secret: 3 to 4 months of glorious sun-filled summer days.

Spring brings with it new growth, beautiful blooms, and the chance to connect with the outdoors again. As all the hermits and season-affective-disorder sufferers creep out of their caves, from the winter rises a chance to renew the bond with community.

A great source of connection in communities is through food. It is over meals that deals are made, laughs are had, and romances flourish. So much of our lives are involved with food, yet it is something many fail to think too much about. We can create and nourish relationships with our planet and our community through food: growing it, buying it and eating it

Current State of Food

Most Americans eat food that has traveled 1500-2000 miles to their plate.

Most food in the US is currently made by a few giant corporations, or agribusinesses. These conglomerates have vast stretches of land leased out to “farmers” who run large machines to till, plant, and harvest. They use petroleum-based pesticides and herbicides that wash downstream into water supplies. After this intensely resource-depleting process of “growing” food is completed ,the harvest is placed on trucks and shipped out. Does this sound smart to you? It’s clearly not sustainable.

Luckily for the sustainable-minded, a great deal (if not all) of your food can easily be purchased locally. This is great for the regional economy, re-circulating your money locally, supporting your area’s farmers, and benefits your health (if not also peace of mind). You can grow a large amount of your own food. Taken together with locally produced food, you can easily be independent of unhealthy, corporate-produced food.

Grow Your Own

There is a great community of gardeners exchanging information and secrets to help perfect their little plots of land. It is an easy resource to tap, too. The Seattle Tilth is a great example in my area, with its many community-based workshops and training programs. Through the Tilth you can learn things like how to winterize your garden, build raised beds, farm veggies in your backyard, compost, and the list goes on. All of these resources are local and readily available.

Being able to grow your own food will give you a perspective on what you are eating, too. Many find that home grown food tastes better than store-bought products. The effort it takes to grow a good watermelon or squash might have you thinking twice about buying food out of season; if it takes that much energy in season, it can’t be very efficiently done out of season and it’s not likely done locally. Growing your own food year round will benefit your diet as well as the environment.

For those of us still “working for the man,” and with little free time, a garden can seem a bit overwhelming. There are people you can pay to garden for you. They will (for a fee) install a vegetable garden on your property and harvest those vegetables for you on a regular basis, leaving them at doorstep.

Buy It Local

Farmers market patrons enjoy 10 times the conversations as their grocery store counterparts

Neighborhood farmers markets provide a great resource for locally grown, health food. Farmers selling at local markets like these receive around 90 percent of the profits, whereas farmers forced to sell their products to out-of-town corporations see only 10 cents of every dollar. Shopping at local farmers’ markets also increases your sense of community. A report by Brian Howell found that patrons of farmers markets have 10 times as many conversations than those who shop at grocery stores.

It is unique in today’s world to be able to talk to the person who grew your food. This is a relatively new thing in human history. Not too long ago we ate seasonally, bought our food from local sources, and grew our own food. It is far more common now to buy form grocery stores and simply trust the packaging labels for information about your food. When you take the time to shop at a farmers’ market you can discuss the food you are buying with the grower right there on the spot. You can also see exactly who is living off your money, instead of it vanishing into a grocery chain likely to fatten the pocket linings of rich CEOs further.

Another option for those seeking local food are Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) networks. These programs connect area farmers with local consumers directly. Often the food is delivered right to your door, with recipes and information in the box about the contents. I pick up my weekly box of fruits, veggies, and dairy at a local drop off and return the reusable boxes from the week before. It is a great way to eat seasonally, support my local farmers, and try new foods.

Sustainable Food, Sustainable World

A strong local community is essential to creating a steady state economy. Actions speak louder than words: go find your local farmers market, CSA program, or gardening network. The quality of the food that sustains your body should be one of your top personal priorities, just as the quality of the lifestyle we can sustain on this planet should be one of our society’s top priorities.

If we want a sustainable world, we need a sustainable food supply. Relying on food made inefficiently 2000 miles away is not a sustainable way of life. Gathering together with neighbors to create a backyard community garden, supporting your area’s farmers’ markets, and buying locally produced food will not only benefit your wallet, your health and the environment, but you might actually make some friends along the way. You will be doing a great service to your community and to your grandkids by supporting sustainable food practices that will help to create a sustainable world.