Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Life and Tomatoes

It all starts out innocently enough. Wanting to eat less processed food. Making more things and eating at home. A few bee hives. A summer garden. Then the thirst comes. You want to read more....DO more! More homesteading, more farming, more gardening, more canning!! Next think you know.. you've smuggled in chickens and are stalking the farm section on Craig's list.

In my thirst I've started reading Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (see side bar). For one year she and her family vowed they would only buy and eat food raised in their own neighborhood, grew it themselves or learned to live without it. I am still in the process of reading the book, but it has already got my wheels spinning.

I live here. Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Briefly and very quickly this morning I mapped out a few of the common items in our refrigerator and pantry. Honestly, I've never really looked a the labels before, except to check out the ingredients. In addition to our summer garden surplus, honey, and eggs our food came from here:

Items that traveled the longest:

1. Bananas - Ecuador. Never noticed it on the Dole label before.
2. Scone Mix - A gift, but from Egham, Surrey.
3. Smoked Spanish Paprika - Also a gift (one I love) from Barcelona, Spain.
4. Coffee - Tony's Free Trade Organic.

Items of interest:

1. Starkist Tuna - Distributed by Starkist Seafood in Pittsburgh, PA. I am pretty sure there isn't any Tuna in the "Three Rivers."

2. Tomato - Grown in the USA from the local grocery (missed the farm market). Went to the web site, who didn't list WHERE the greenhouse was in the USA. Had to call the 1-800 number to find my $.82 tomato came from Texas. It was parked next to the local tomatoes at the store.

3. Life Cereal - One of my favorites and without high fructose corn syrup. Distributed by Quaker Oats, but made in Canada? Again, no info on the 1-800-Quaker... It is made in Peterborough, Ontario.

If every US citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.
~Barbara Kingsolver
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

On that note, I had an egg for breakfast.
Just food for thought...


Nancy said...

I read the AVM book last summer and loved it. Not very easy to live like that 24/7 though. It did provide good food for thought. Love that you mapped your food. Maybe I should do that.

June said...

What a great mapped-out illustration of American eating! But...what a difference that book has made in so many lives. I read it just after it came out, and I cannot blithely put things in my grocery cart now, never will be able to again. Like your family, we grow as much as we can, shop the farmers' markets, visit the farm stand over by the library. After what we've all been through with late blight this season, I have intense respect for the people who manage to feed us all. I like being able to support the growers whom I can look in the eye and say with all my heart, Thank you.

Thank you, Beegirl, for being one of the people who inspires our family's sustainability journey. It's so wonderful having friends who gain many kinds of nourishment from eating an egg for breakfast that was laid in her own backyard.

Holli said...

Loved Kingsolver's book, and the way it made me think about my food. Even more, I loved The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan -- highly recommend it.

PS such cool mapping of where your food came from.

The Hip Homemaker said...

I also read the book and felt inspired, but also a little overwhelmed. I would like to eat more locally, but being in the north, winter can get a little sparse around here. I think I am going to try hunting this year, which will help with meat and next year I plan to grow more to put up for the winter so I don't have to buy so many veggies in the colder months. Love the map, BTW!

Michelle said...

Enlightening, isn't it? I never paid attention before...but now I do. And, usually, I veer away from highly processed food that's travelled the country. But sometimes..I must admit...convenience still wins. oxoxo

Chiot's Run said...

We're almost neighbors, I live in Ohio, about an hour away from Pittsburg.

I too am trying to eat as locally as I can. I'm super excited as I just found a local source for grains/oats. I even try to buy my goods from small local stores instead of big chains. Even if I'm buying canning jars I can find a small local store that carries them, yeah somtimes I'll pay a little more, but at least I'm giving my money to a local person.

Cliff W said...

A great demonstration of your food sources.

I've tried growing veggies at home this year organically - I have even more respect now for those of you who manage this successfully. It's a lot more heartache than I'd imagined but infinitely more satisfying when things go well.

Anyway, I have found the next book on my reading list - thanks

Conny said...

Great post! AVM is on my "next to be read" list, it's on my bookself waiting for me to finish The Contrary Farmer (Logsdon).

I love your mapping with pins.

Just the other day, I went to the grocery and noticed the apples I wanted were from New Zealand. I thought to myself "Do I really need an apple that came ALL the way from New Zealand? Really??" I chose the more local, Washington variety - not very close to me, but still closer than the other side of the world.

Melissa said...

I haven't read AVM but I have read this other book about this type of movement called the 100mile diet:

What I like about that book is that their approach had no borders: They were a couple from Vancouver, BC, on the coast, so they already cut their radius in half. North, South, East. No West. Their search made them buy food manufactured or grown in Washington state as it was within their 100mile radius.

Sure, you Quaker Oats were made in Ontario, about 340 miles away from you, but isn't that still better than if they were made in California?

I too live in Canada, in the province of Quebec. I start my search within my city, if I don't find what I'm looking for, then I search within my province, then neighbouring provinces and US states and I widen and widen my radius until I find what I'm looking for.

I try as much as possible to buy Canadian however for me, I let mother nature have a Veto right on my purchasing decisions.

Geographically speaking, I'd rather buy a product made in New York, than one from British Columbia or Alberta, which are thousands of miles away from me. It just makes more sense as far as carbon footprints are concerned.

Anyway, I just happened upon your blog today and I really enjoyed what I read so far. Keep it up!

Kelly said...

Such a complicated issue. First I had to laugh over the Life cereal, it one of the only non-organic boxes I will buy for my kids. The stuff is soooo good!

As far as the 'where our food comes from' issue, food has ALWAYS been shipped around the world, at least as long as man has been building ships and riding livestock. I hope this never changes. It provides inter-sate commerce and jobs, broadens our dietary choices, makes life interesting. But at the same time buying what you can locally (as opposed to the same item brought in from half-way across the country)is the best choice for more reasons than we could all probably list.

I love the local movement, and want to support it as best I can...but unlike Barbara and her family I am unwilling to give up pineapples, bananas, and mangos. Selfish? I don't know. If we all make a small change, just one meal as you mentioned in your post, it counts.

Very cool post, loved the pins in the map. I hope you continue enjoying AVM, it gave me a completely new appreciation for small scale organic farmers.

dmoms said...

wow, you rocked on this post. excellent idea to map it out. that book really spoke to me last year. maybe it is time i read it again.

bridgmanpottery said...

I completely flipped my lid when I realized that a bell pepper in my kitchen came from HOLLAND. How nutritious could that be? And how much did that $1 pepper REALLY cost to ship. Sick. So I've been buying peppers like crazy at the farmers market and freezing them in strips and chopped. No more food from europe. Unless it is chocolate. Or if someone wants to bring me spanish paprika.

Thomas said...

Great book and post. I was a bit surprise that these companies were actually able to tell you where these items were processed/grown. Now if only we can get them to label this information more clearly so that consumers can calculate their food miles before they buy, that would surely be something!

Bloom fine art fotografi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bloom fine art fotografi said...

I had too many typo's...
So I erased my previous post...okay, what I was saying was; Thank you for sharing this information with us, what an eyeopener. I will defintly read this book, sounds very inspiring.
Also I think this was so creative...I would like to try this with my kids as a project for homeschool...they'll love it.It's all about being aware and making the best choices.

gonzomama said...

that book got the wheels turning here too. i am so impressed that you took the time to find where exactly you're food came from. and thank you for sharing it with us. very interesting. and so many interesting comments, i think you hit a nerve!

(went and picked up my copy of urban farm today. got to browse it a bit while watching the littles play, can't wait to get more in depth.)

underthebigbluesky said...

i love that YOU DID THE MAP! that is awesome. again, i loved that book. i had an argument with my father about fresh farm vs grocery eggs today. ugggh.

maybe i'll get him AVM for Christmas!

Chiot's Run said...

Can I count my coffee as local since my dad lives in Colombia and brings it back to me when he travels back? He'd bring back his suitcases empty so he fills them delicious Colombian coffee and food for us that we can't get here in the US.

Indiana Annie said...

What a great post and an inspiration to all of us to map the contents of our own cupboards and reconsider some of our choices. I'd like to try Kingsolver's experiment, but I need to move first... Somewhere in close proximity to coffee and chocolate :)

theurbanfieldguide said...

YES! I love this post! Would you mind if I linked to it? There might be a few folks who read my blog that don't read yours already! ;) (like my mom). I love that book, and the way she writes makes it so easy to relate to and I think that's why it's changed so many people's minds/habits. We've been having a few 100 mile dinner parties around here and it's a real eye opener. Even in CA!

Sarah / Bee House Hives said...

What a great post!! Now you should map out all that you have canned:)

My friend Anna loves this book. I have not read it yet, but can't wait to. It is on the list for this winter when things slow down
a bit.

jeanette, mistress of longears said...

Such an inpired idea for a post...I read Kingsolver's book this summer, too. I loved the idea! Now I'm reading "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan (He's been a fave of mine since his first book "Second Nature" about how he began gardening - highly recommend it). IDoF is incredibly eye-opening, especially since I've lived through all the events he's interpreting.

gardenmama said...

great post, and that was certainly a very good book. Made me think even deeper into what we are eating. It feels so easy to eat local in the summer and a bit more has to go into it in the winter yet, canning, freezing storing food goes a long way in helping this. I feel lucky to live around so many farms and our small health food store carries many things locally so that helps... ok I have just erased so much of my comment because it keeps turning into a book! There is so much to say about food in our country. Great post!

The Cottage Comtesse said...

Fabulous post. I'm eating mostly stuff from our state, if you call that local (CA), including raw milk, grass fed beef, and produce. Eggs are from my own chickens, as well as some additional produce, buy I hope to raise goats next spring and eventually have my own milk and cheese.

The items I struggle with finding locally are grains (I buy grain in bulk and grind my own), coffee, teas, olive oil (all though there is more and more of this in CA), spices, and bananas. But I have to focus on how much progress we've made eating closer and closer to home.

Cliff W said...

My copy of AVM arrived today! A great read for my upcoming holidays - I wonder now though how many air miles were involved in its publication and transport to Ireland :(

I was also looking at some fish we had in the freezer. It originated in New Zealand - literally the other side of the world!

apples said...

Ahh! Peterborough, Ontario!
I always found it fun that the quaker boxes I have seen in movies and commercials was made so close by! {we live in Lindsay}...i'm lame.
I can eat Life cereal without guilt!
I want to read that book.

tara said...

You're so right- once you start paying attention to where your food comes from, you can't go back, and the desires for more self sufficiency just keep growing!.My favorite book regarding this subject is "This Organic Life", by Joan Dye Gussow- I love the way she writes. Check it out! This is a great post, and I may need to do the food-mapping project with my homeschooled kids, too. Thank you!

nytesong said...

I really enjoyed the book and think you'll like it to (you've probably finished it by now)

I live in Southwest Pa too and you're right--there's no tuna in Pittsburgh. Hahaha.