Editor's note: The highlight of my week was to receive an email from Nicole F., a 17-year old teenager from Plymouth, Minnesota. She took on a week of eating locally in March, and wrote about it on her blog, An Experiment in Eating Locally. I asked her to summarize her project here, and for more information, you can check out her site. Thanks, Nicole!
As a junior in high school, the concept of eating locally had never occurred to me. I knew about eating organically and nutritiously. I knew about recycling and composting. But I had never considered eating locally grown food until I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. This book offered me a challenge and I gladly accepted.
I soon began my own experiment: one week of eating locally grown food versus one week of eating food only from Target. The experiment is to figure out which is better based on economic factors, nutrition, lifestyle factors, accessibility, variety, and locality of food.
I live in Minnesota and, as I found out, chose the worst possible time to start my experiment. We are at the end of a long, cold winter.
The week began by calling four co-ops that were recommended as most likely to be selling locally grown food. The first place I called had only potatoes, tomatoes, and green cabbage. The second and third told me to come back in three weeks. The fourth place I called, Seward Co-op in Minneapolis, was just slight of a miracle. They named 12 vegetables that were locally grown.
I was thrilled and began my shopping adventure.
Seward Co-op labeled every item as local, organic, or gluten free. The produce items were labeled by place of origin. Locally produced items were labeled by distance to the farm. I credit the success of my eating locally to this co-op.
I chose to purchase local meat from an independent farm. Early Saturday morning, my dad and I traveled an hour by car to Sunshine Harvest Farms. The farmers gave us a great tour of their six-acre farm. We met sheep, ducks, and my favorite, Swissy, the milk cow. We bought ground beef, two whole chickens, lamb, and steak. All animals were grass-fed and had wide-open pastures to graze.
My family ate locally every meal for the next week. It was a strict and thoughtful diet. We ate everything from local honey to local beets. It was more work than expected, but also more rewarding. The hardest part of the eating locally week was the planning and time spent on every meal. I needed to bring my lunch to school every day and there was no such thing as a quick dinner.
It was a love-hate relationship: I loved how it forced me to eat healthier and I felt great about helping my local economy and the environment. However, it was difficult to find locally grown food in Minnesota in March and took a lot of effort.
This week I have begun my Target diet. This diet has also had its ups and downs. I love my fruit and variety, but I am eating food from over 5,000 miles away, which I now feel guilty about.
All in all, I found that with sacrifice, it is definitely possible to eat locally grown food in Minnesota. I know that come summer and fall, Minnesotans will have even more variety of choices. Through this experiment I am going to choose local food labels. I have empathy for the struggles and triumphs of the small farmer. Now, I have more knowledge and experience in eating locally grown food than the average teenager.
You can read more about this project on my blog: An Experiment in Eating Locally.