Monday, October 29, 2007

100-Mile Foodshed

The 100 Mile Diet website has a handy little gizmo for calculating your 100-mile foodshed, for those who would like to take on the challenge of eating -- occasionally, mostly or entirely -- from sources lying within 100 miles of home. Of course one could do this with a map and a compass, but this makes it easy for those who like to find all their tools online. I took a screenshot of the results for Northfield. It's a circle that extends roughly to St. Cloud and Pine City in the north, Chippewa Falls and La Crosse to the east, Clear Lake/Mason City to the south, and Redwood Falls to the west. 100 miles is a fairly arbitrary cut-off, and I don't pretend to be trying to follow a strict 100-mile diet -- but it's instructive, and as a matter of fact most of the "local" foods in my kitchen do come from within this area.

The Dark Days Eat Local Challenge I'm participating in -- at least one meal per week to be 90% from within 200 miles -- of course doubles that, which would qualify my White Earth Land Recovery Project maple syrup and presumably almost any wild rice I might buy. The Just Food Eat Local challenge from the late summer called for 80% of one's diet to come from the 5-state area. Now that seems comfortable and very doable in contrast, allowing wheat from the Dakotas and cheeses and fruit (Door County cherries, anyone?) from Wisconsin. There's not much we really need that can't be had from within that region (almost everyone in the locavore movement makes some exceptions for relatively dry, low-weight cultural staples like coffee, tea, chocolate and spices). It still does a lot to bring down the average, often cited these days, that the typical food item in an American kitchen has traveled 1500 miles to get there. (Here are some more statistics to chew on.)

Do what makes sense for your family. I'm not out to badger anyone about what they eat. But eating more locally makes sense to me in my gut (truly, no pun intended). It feels real. It feels good! It feels as if we might think of ourselves as having a real food culture, as the French or Italians or Japanese do, rather than living off an endless array of foods from everywhere that no longer strike us as luxuries and in many cases, due to their long travel or multisyllabic preservatives, really aren't so luxurious after all. Eating food that's fresh off the farm, is full of flavor, and stays good in your refrigerator twice as long as typical supermarket produce or dairy does -- now that seems to me luxury worth building increasingly into my life.

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