Author Topic: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food  (Read 5979 times)

judd stephens

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Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« on: June 22, 2009, 08:28:18 AM »
This is probably a topic that goes beyond now reading section; so I'm just finishing Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dillema    In it he explores the entire chain of what we eat, from industrial farming, to the Organic Movement in America, to small sustainable farming, even right down to hunting and foraging food himself as an experiment, you might say. 

The book really challenged me about what I choose to eat, where it comes from, what happens to it on the way to the grocery store and on the table.  The part that really got to me was the chapter Big Organic, somewhat of an expose on the organic industry, and it is a gargantuan industry here and now.  He goes to an Organic "Free Range" chicken farm where some 20,000 chickens are packed together, with the free range part being a little strip of grass outside the warehouse that the chickens never touch.

The same goes with the organic vegetables, as in there are industrial means applied to the food that sort of compromises the whole intent of why we buy that food to begin with. It's healthier, sure, but sustainable?  Doesn't sound like it.   

I was at the local Whole Foods the other day here in Westminster, Colorado and noticed a bunch of signs with faces of local business owners "I am local" the signs are entitled.  Standing in the produce section was a bigger than life-size poster of Hosea, a chef from nearby Boulder.  Hosea won the most recent Top Chef show, it's a reality chef competition show with that Indian model babe as host.  My wife watches it... so do I   Under Hosea's face there's a caption, as in all the big signs, that touts the virtues of eating local.  He mentions the obvious superior taste of local food as soon as you taste it.

So I look around the produce section all of that local food I expect to find.... what do I see?  Lettuce from California, Asparagus from Mexico, something from New Zealand, Georgia, and so on.  Everything I saw, and I looked pretty thoroughly, was from anywhere but Colorado!  You can imagine all the countless costs of fuel, pollution, etc it takes to put food on our tables.

My new mission is to change this, well, at least within the influence of my own family.  It only makes sense to buy as much local as I can, it's healthier, it's more sustainable in the true sense of the word, and it just makes sense... and from what I'm hearing, the farmer's market communities are growing. 

So my question is to wonder about what you're thinking, or what you've tried, to deal with this, if at all.  Any experiences of gardening, local markets, hunting, etc. to share?

mgriffin

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2009, 09:14:13 AM »
There are a bunch of different issues here.

Eating what's "clean" and healthy is one thing.  Everyone should do that, if they care about themselves, whether or not they care about the planet.

Choosing food that has a lower impact on the planet (water consumption, soil depletion, gas consumption and pollution from transport to market) is something many will want to do, too, but it's trickier.  What if I like tomatoes year-round and I live somewhere like Oregon where we can't get local tomatoes except during a few months of the year?  I can either do without tomatoes most of the year, or I can buy tomatoes that come from California, or Mexico, or South America, depending on what time of year it is.  I'd prefer to buy local produce, but I'm not sure this preference is so strong that I'm willing to eat nothing but squash and canned/frozen vegetables through the winter.

Also there's the matter of food quality.  The produce at big supermarkets is often extremely poor quality, flavorless, and either very underripe or overripe.  We've found farmer's markets or produce-specific markets usually have much better stuff, often for very low prices.  Speaking of tomatoes again, we can either go to Fred Meyer and buy pink-orange, flavorless pseudo-tomatoes for $3.49 a pound, or we can get deep red, ripe, wonderful tasting tomatoes from a farmer's market for 1/3 the price.

Of course, most Americans eat so little fresh produce none of this is relevant anyway.  I have friends who haven't touched a vegetable or fruit that didn't come out of the freezer or jar or can, in literally years.
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judd stephens

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2009, 01:39:36 PM »
Of course, most Americans eat so little fresh produce none of this is relevant anyway.  I have friends who haven't touched a vegetable or fruit that didn't come out of the freezer or jar or can, in literally years.


Well, to paraphrase the author, if you really care about pollution, dealing with climate change, health care, national security (think of swine flu, ecoli, and all the other things that can wipe out so many people because of centralized food in the hands of so few farms and companies), then you have to look at food.  This issue is tricky, for sure.  The subsidies on corn and soy only encourage obesity, diabetes, and cheap junk food.  Your friends, like my friends probably care about this issue when pressed, but most of them have never chanced upon connecting all the dots.

I understand the desire to eat a tomato, or anything else that's not local or out of season locally.  Just yesterday I ate salmon from Alaska, and I love bananas regardless of when.  But the more I think about it the more I realize how a little insane this seems to me, to have food from across the country or from another continent.   And the cost of repeatedly doing it is high.  Even if I don't pay a high price for organic bananas from Guatemala, there's the hidden cost of increased fuel prices, environmental, and so on. 

Another book I read once on Qigong (a chinese health-practice, or exercise), had a chapter on healthy lifelystyle- the "qigong lifestyle" as it was called.  One of the supposed virtues was eating local, and I believe it was because the chi, or the "vibration" of local food, is healthier for someone than eating imported or out of season foods.  It makes sense to think of one more connected to their locale if they eat as local as they can. 

Anyway I noticed that there are some farms in different cities that offer year-round services, with winter vegetables and meat.  I imagine if all one did was just eat local meat during the winter, and kept eating veggies from the grocery store, that would be quite an impact on fossil fuel consumption.  It's just a thought, one I'm seriously working on....

by the way I'd like to share a great discussion with Michael Pollan the author of the Omnivore's Dilemma and other food related books, from Bill Moyers journal.  This is good because it succintly puts the issues out in a relatively short clip:  Pt. 1 
  Pt. 2 

sraymar

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2009, 06:53:01 PM »
At least most of the food I eat is from California. Southern CA used to be very agriculture oriented along with dairy farms but most of it is gone now replaced by industrial, commercial buildings and housing. When we finally get off of fossil fuels, and I believe this is the century for it to happen, another problem will be solved. Here in Fullerton there's a public Farmer's market every thursday afternoon and evening nearby along with different bands that play. I like picking up a combo of organic blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries there. There's a little fish market next to a pier in Newport Beach where they go out and catch their own fish each day I'm going to have to try. Anyway this topic makes a good case for growing your own food in a garden.

Steve
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mgriffin

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2009, 07:32:42 PM »
That brings back memories, Steve.  When my parents first divorced my dad moved to Fullerton and I spent summers there, and we frequently went to Newport Beach.  Don't recall any farmers markets or fish markets, but I was only in 4th grade or something.  I do remember gas rationing, trips to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, a "sawdust festival" outdoor art fair in Laguna, and somebody stealing my brother's bike from outside a Fullerton 7-11.
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Seren

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2009, 04:47:10 AM »
Possible rant here :o

Like most other eco issues, in the end the real problem is the number of human beings overpopulating the Earth....and which countries, nationalities or ethnic groups are doing this.

Forget the politics, economy, religious problems etc - 56 million people in the UK taking a dump a day has an enormous environmental impact.

The introduction of non local products is what enabled the UK diet to become healthy enough for people to live as long as they do - they heavily oppressed the non local populations to do this though.

the urge to have more than just subsistence is largely what has made humans move beyond the hunter gatherering and sustainable farming lifestyles. If we chose to return to truly sustainable living many of the areas currently populated would become uninhabitable and issues such as seal and whale hunts by indigenous peoples would take on a different perspective.

Many of the indigenous peoples did/do seem to have more of an ability to balance the individual and tribal needs alongside the impact on their environment - though their lifestyles tend to be lacking in most of what, 3rd, 2nd and 1st world populations consider as essentials (including, unfortunately, recording equipment)....

Perhaps those of us whose over populations seem to cause the problems should step aside and let the indigenous have the Earth back before it's too knackered for anyone.

Partly the reasons I had a vasectomy at 23......
 

Seren

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2009, 04:50:16 AM »
 :o....and the oppression handed out in order to create the 1st world is a huge part of current economic and social problems - Many suffering cultures find the freedoms we have to choose foods from one place or another intensely upsetting, especially if they have had their forest resources destroyed so that we can eat those foods.


hdibrell

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2009, 01:43:15 PM »
Yeah!!! Now, if I can just remember where I left my spear, I have to go back to work.  ;D
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Mark Mushet

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2009, 02:01:38 PM »
Even a mild change like thinking seasonally makes a difference. Shift your cooking to seasonally available produce. Of course, rampant development has reduced farmland outside of most urban areas. It's gross stupidity and mostly irreversable and another reason future alien archeologists will be deeming us deserving of extinction.

hdibrell

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2009, 03:09:59 PM »
Small changes really do make a difference. Like Mike, I do like having good tomatoes year round. If we could resolve to buy more locally grown items it wouldn't be necessary to radically alter our lifestyles. Just making an effort to be aware of local items available would do a lot of good. I tend to buy more locally than I did five years ago. I still get my items that aren't available here, but not as many. Thinking seasonly as Mark pointed out is also a great strategy. Right now here in South Texas fresh corn is available locally and it is delicious. If I eat much more I think I will start sprouting ears of it from my body. Citrus such as ruby red grapefruit and oranges are available all along the outskirts of town from truck vendors as well as fresh Texas Brown shrimp from the Gulf. Not exactly health food, but this part of Texas has some of the best sausage I've ever tasted thanks to the influence of the German, Czech, Polish and Alsatian communities nearby. It's just a matter of educating yourself as to what's available .        Harry(who's starting to get hungry)
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lena

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2009, 03:59:35 PM »
Yes, M & I are pretty much tomato fiends, which is why we're growing a bunch of tomato plants (three different kinds), in our garden this year. We eat a lot of produce, so it makes sense for us to grow some of it ourselves.  :)
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judd stephens

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2009, 07:53:55 PM »
There's a documentary movie out now called Food Inc.  It features Eric Schlosser of Fast Food Nation fame and Michael Pollan.   Looks like a good one.  Trailer: 

judd stephens

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2009, 08:01:14 PM »
I've also found that there are many farms that offer a plan where you buy a share up front of produce, and it's delivered to a sight where you can pick it up.  This usually takes place on a weekly basis... say you buy 800 dollars worth of produce from a local farm for the season, and every week you pick up your share, a mix of fruits and vegetables to last a typical week.  You can't pick exactly what foods you want, but recipes are offered and there seems to be a variety depending on what's in season. 

There's also the concept of the community farm, like an inner city garden devoted to locals who can rent a little space and cultivate their crops.  Good for apartment renters and those without the space.

lena

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2009, 12:11:17 PM »
Yeah Judd,

We have farms like that in Portland. We also have ones that will deliver boxes, (you choose the size & pay accordingly), of local, organically-grown produce right to your door once a week.

M & I stopped at a Safeway grocery not too far from our house the other day, & we were happily surprised to find LOADS of locally-grown stuff!  :)
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petekelly

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #15 on: June 29, 2009, 12:31:25 PM »
There's a cool thing they have here in darkest North Yorkshire.

There's a few farms that have an 'on the wall' set up. They sell their veg and eggs literally on the
wall outside the farm. Theres a tin to put the money in and thats it. Its seasonal naturally, so
theres no veg in the summer. Its a all free-range, mis-shapen and dirty, but it actually tastes of
something. Rather than pristine, glowing carrots from Tesco, from some uber-farm on the continent.

Same goes for the poultry farm here in the village, walk to the farm pay 80p for 6 massive
free-range aggs and leave the money in a tin. Can't see that happening in London !

cheers
Pete

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #16 on: June 29, 2009, 08:54:19 PM »
Living in the Bay Area's East Bay, I've been really fortunate that fresh produce has been plentiful and relatively easy to find.  In addition to local farmer's markets like the ones in North Berkeley, I've been able to find seasonal produce at places like the Berkeley Bowl, Gilman Natural Grocery and Monterey Market.  I think that locally grown produce does taste better, though I will admit to buying some produce "out of season" (especially fruits) when I get the occasional craving.

Forrest

Wayne Higgins

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #17 on: June 30, 2009, 07:56:31 AM »
Down here in Tallahassee, I have found that the best place for produce is the flea market.  There are a number of farmers, most of them Mexican, who bring food in and sell at stands.  Much lower prices than grocery stores and much fresher.  As far as worrying about what may or may not be sprayed on them, I'd rather not.  When it comes to meat, I can't catch, much less clean a fish.  There are plenty of wild turkeys out where I live, but I just don't have the nerve.  If I was totally destitute, I would probably work up the nerve.  There is a good fish market in Tallahassee, but I never think about it.  The main problem is that to drive 5 different places on a Saturday to get food requires planning and an ice chest.  The ice chest I got, it's the planning that I just don't want to deal with on the weekend.  My wife wants to got to a theme park July 4th to see the fireworks.  That's even stressing me out.  She's going to a movie with my son and daughter-in-law on Friday.  I'm glad they said I don't have to go.
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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #18 on: June 30, 2009, 09:15:09 AM »
Here in rural Washington State, it's mostly Amish and Mennonites who sell fresh produce at markets - good stuff.  We have lots of local ranches, most of which raise and sell only grass-fed beef (or buffalo, or even emu).  We can buy a half or quarter cow pretty cheaply from a woman a mile down the road and just freeze it, thus minimizing packaging, trips to the store, etc.  We try to buy organic whenever we can, but it's annoying when the organic section of my local Safeway (17 miles away) has stuff from all over the US.  It's hard to buy local when simple things like Salsa are from Vermont - really, nobody closer makes salsa?  Really?   ???

It does suck that we can't get local fish; it's all from Alaska (wild-caught, so it's healthy) or from farms in Canada (fish farms are truly disgusting places - I will never eat a farmed fish as long as I live).  Lake Roosevelt (the Columbia River) is only 30 miles away, so catching fish is a possibility, but it's got the usual runoff pollution problems, so you never know what's in the fish meat. 

We don't get too anal about buying local, but we do try to do what we can.  It usually tastes better, is fresher, is cheaper, and I'd rather keep my money in the local economy.

...The ice chest I got, it's the planning that I just don't want to deal with on the weekend.  My wife wants to got to a theme park July 4th to see the fireworks.  That's even stressing me out.  She's going to a movie with my son and daughter-in-law on Friday.  I'm glad they said I don't have to go.

Man, I feel your pain...  I work at home, so I'm turning into a real recluse...  I don't do well in crowds...   :P
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Mark Mushet

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Re: Omnivore's Dilemma & Local Food
« Reply #19 on: June 30, 2009, 09:27:19 AM »
It does suck that we can't get local fish; it's all from Alaska (wild-caught, so it's healthy) or from farms in Canada (fish farms are truly disgusting places - I will never eat a farmed fish as long as I live).  Lake Roosevelt (the Columbia River) is only 30 miles away, so catching fish is a possibility, but it's got the usual runoff pollution problems, so you never know what's in the fish meat.

Yeah. That's brutal. Have you seen the signs along the river in Spokane warning about the danger of eating the fish because its all downstream from a Superfund disaster zone in Idaho and elsewhere caused by a century or so of bad mining practices?

And I apologize for our fish farms. You see, our current govt. is populated by corrupt assholes and...oh wait...they ALL are!