A few years ago, I read Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." We had already started to get a weekly seasonal vegetable share from a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm and it was the start of a journey that found us this year with a winter root vegetable and local meat share.
One of the fun aspects to a farm share is that it forces you to be creative and explore new foods. B.C. (Before CSA), I'd never, ever had a parsnip, kale, or rutabega. I also had never cooked anything with fresh butternut squash or done anything with a pumpkin save carve one for halloween.
People debate endlessly as to whether organic is better for you/better for the world/tastes better than conventional. I'm not going to get into that argument. But I can tell you there's a difference when you eat food that has been freshly harvested within minutes to hours of when you get it versus food that has to be shipped and processed on its way to the store.
Our seasonal farm share is even more 'local' because my teenage son volunteers on the farm all summer long, so we were eating food he'd planted, weeded, and harvested.
This year, I also joined a winter share. A consortium of several local farms worked to bring members fall greens, apples, onions, winter squash, potatoes, carrots, and other root crops. We're almost though the last of the parsnips and radishes. There are still a few sweet potatoes, but most of the rest has already made its way into our meals and into our hungry bodies. Some of our bounty has been preserved, either through freezing, canning, or dehydrating, so we can enjoy some of our local food through the winter.
The past few weeks, I've actually been a little sad to have to go to the grocery store to buy things like onions and potatoes.
We also belong to a local meat share. Once a month, we pick up a cooler full of flash frozen freshly processed, locally and humanely grown beef, chicken, lamb, and pork.
It's been a joy to create meals that are almost entirely based on food from a 50 mile radius of where I live. It feels like a more sensible way to live and eat, though I have to admit to several non-local vices: coffee, chocolate, and bananas.
Really, I'm a city mouse, not a country mouse, but I've taught myself country mouse tricks for the sake of good food. Next year, I want an honest to goodness root cellar.
Has eating local changed my life? In a way, yes. It's made me more mindful of what I eat, what I buy, and how I see my place in the larger world. I feel better, especially as we eat almost no processed food anymore, or at least things with few and recognizable ingredients. In the long run, I think that's a healthier way to approach eating.
If you are interested in the CSA movement, you can find a local farm here.