On my desk right now, I have a mug made by a friend who threw it and fired it herself. Inside that mug is Trager Brothers Coffee, which is roasted in a garage behind a gorgeous white house, not 5 miles from where I now sit. In the oven is cheese toast, made with cheese from a local dairy and sold at a local farmstand, Saunders Brothers, a mere 8 miles away. If only I had made the bread myself from local milk and eggs and flour, then my whole breakfast would come from within 15 miles.
I’m passionate about eating local.
It’s easy to think being a “locavore” is only trendy, the thing to do. But I don’t see it that way.
Instead, I see Mr. Saunders, who is at his market many days asking, “How are ya? Have you seen these clingstone peaches?” I see the woman who pours me fresh roasted, fresh brewed coffee on a Saturday morning when I am the only customer at the moment. I see the young Mennonite girl who rings up my cheese and who owns a Mastiff and asks what kind of dog I have, who launches in a conversation about the great temperaments of big dogs, who tells me her mastiff just keeps his eyes closed when she gets right in his face. Local eating means local people to me.
It also means my money goes to these people. It doesn’t get eaten up in the fuel costs of transportation or poured into refrigeration tanks that bring me strawberries in October. It means that Mr. Saunders can hire young men from the area to drive his tractors, and the Trager Brothers can bring in a young mom to work the Saturday morning coffee bar shift. It means that my money is supporting my community.
I sacrifice to eat this way. I only eat pumpkin in October and November and strawberries only in June. It costs me $6.00 to get cheddar cheese instead of the $4 at the big grocery. It takes more stops, some days, to get what I need for the pantry, and when time is precious, this can be quiet costly to me.
Not everyone can do this, and I do not presume to think they can. Natural peanut butter is just more expensive, and Walmart is just cheaper sometimes. Those are bottom lines that can’t be ignored in an economy where over 15% of live below the official poverty line of just over $22,000 for a family of 4 and $11,000 for an individual.
Many of us, though, choose these cheaper options for that reason alone. I understand it – we live in a culture where money is often paramount. But still, it makes me sad.
Because I can eat local, I will. I believe that living small matters, for all of us. When we support our local communities with our dollars and with our conversations, we are accountable to those people – to being honest and paying them fairly, to caring about their days and their dogs. It’s so easy to lose track of the people when we shop big and fast. There is virtue and grace in the locavore life.
Plus, my oh my, does that cheese and coffee taste so, so so much better than what I can get at the big grocery. My next challenge – local, homemade bread. I can’t wait.
What do you think of eating local?