I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on my progress with this endeavor so far. For those of you just checking in, for the past few months I have been attempting to eat only local produce. Here are some things I've learned during this experiment:
"Local" can mean a bunch of different things
Check out my previous post if you want to know about all the different definitions of "local" that exist, according to grocery stores. When I began this project, my personal definition of "local" was produce grown in Washington. As I came to realize how difficult it was to find produce from my state in grocery stores, I lowered my standards. I found myself going from, "California is only two states south of me" to "Mexico and Washington are both in the Western Hemisphere, right?". Thanks to this experience, I now feel very strongly that local should really mean local. When Lavar Burton told "Reading Rainbow" viewers to check books out at their local libraries, I'm pretty sure he didn't mean for them to travel halfway across the country.
Local food isn't always available
There were times during this project where there were no local options for the produce I was looking for. When I wanted to find truly local fruits and vegetables I had the resources to travel to farmers markets (see the photo above). Here's the thing, though: not everyone has the means or the motivation to seek out local foods. Again, if conservationists want to encourage the public to eat local, then local foods should be found anywhere and everywhere.
Local produce isn't always obvious
I've learned that it's not easy to figure out which produce is local and which is not. Despite my belief that many grocery stores want you to assume that something organic is also local, I have found that this is not always, or even often, the case.
It's frequently very difficult to find any information about where produce comes from. In the above picture, I'm showing off a potato with a little sticker on it that only touts the word "organic". It doesn't give the potato's original location or even the farm company where the potato was raised. For all I know, this potato was local to the Seattle region. There's just not a lot of information when it comes to the origins of a lot of produce.
Local isn't the convenient choice
Finding local produce is time consuming, no question about it. There were times when I just wanted to rush in and out of the store to grab one vegetable I needed for dinner without going through the whole production of finding the vegetable I wanted, looking to see if it had a sticker, looking up where the farm mentioned on the sticker was located, invariably being disappointed, and starting the process over again with a different vegetable. Yes, I found farmer's markets to be a great resource but the one in my area is only open once a week for several months out of the year, during which time I have to find a different source for local produce. Choosing produce without bothering about its location is a whole lot more convenient and I'll freely admit that.
Keep on keeping on
I'm going to continue my quest and eat local produce whenever I can. I know how beneficial local produce is for the environment (reducing the use of fossil fuels) and I'm interested to find more resources for local produce in my area. I'll continue to update you with my progress. If you have any suggestions for places or companies for me to try, please let me know in the comments! Please also let me know if you're going to join me in my efforts to eat local produce.
The bottom line is that if local produce is to go mainstream, it needs to be more accessible, convenient, and more clearly marked. These changes will make it so much easier for the general public to help reduce climate change with every salad, pizza, and smoothie they make.