Friday, October 19, 2007

Early Rains and eating locally

Winter is arriving early here this year. Not winter as in cold, but winter as in rain. We have had 10% or our annual rainfall already, and it's only the middle of October. Not that we didn't need it, having had such a dry spring, but it does put an end to the summer garden in a way that is equal to but different from those areas where frost does the work.

Between the weather and the busyness of church schedules in fall, I've done most of the fall chores at the community garden with good help from others. Over the next week, I will mulch and sew some cover crops.

There are lots of tomatoes in several forms put by, but tonight I will be approaching the last fresh one, and using the last of the fresh zucchini and string beans, in a vegetable stew with polenta. Only the pumpkins will be left as fresh garden produce, until I harvest the first of the winter chard from my backyard in a week or two.

This has got me thinking about the challenges to eating locally, and fresh when possible, in the winter. Even in this benign climate, even with some garden space and year round farm markets, even with my own preservation efforts, it isn't easy to eat local in the winter. As I mentioned below, I do give in to frozen vegetables once in a while. And I will be buying fresh cranberries that are from Massachusetts (best flavor, flavors of home) if I can get them. Our food system and food habits have moved so far from do-it-yourself local food that even those of us with commitment and resources find it hard to change our habits.

The shift from encouraging home and community gardens to addressing food insecurity with subsidized commodities toward the end of the Great Depression is just one movement whose impact is still with us. We have organized around Big Food, the pal of Big Oil, and undoing the work is daunting.

The article in Wednesday's NY Times, "Local Carrots With a Side of Red Tape" seemed depressingly typical of the challenges we face. If individuals find it hard to undo our ways with food, how much harder on a larger scale, like getting carrots farmed in NY state to NYC school children.

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