Flat landers the locals call us. Transplants from New York City to rural Vermont with dreams of living off the land and learning how to become self-sustaining. My little nuclear family consists of myself (a former administrator at a not-for-profit, turned adolescent farmer), my husband Sean, (a traveling cinematographer and our property maintenance guru), and our twin 15-year-old daughters, Ivy & Camille, wonderfully creative souls without a lick of interest in getting dirty (although, under duress, they will pick a few weeds when asked). After my husband heard that I was reading the Joy of Chickens on the subway during my daily commute, he feared for my life and figured out a way to get us out of the city and onto a 24-acre parcel in Southern Vermont. In 2 years, we cleared our land, put in a 1/3 mile road, built an off-grid, super-sealed, eco-friendly house (with the help of TurnKey Builders and Eco+Plan from Western MA) and constructed a barn to support our solar panels and my 16 very privileged 'lady belles,' hearty Rhode Island Red chickens capable of withstanding northern winters. The greatest lesson I think we've all learned throughout our explosion of rural development is that all good things take time and one can not become self sustaining overnight.
So far, we've learned how to conserve energy so that we can almost support all of our electrical consumption with our 4 Kilowatt solar electric system, (albeit we regularly send thanks to the generator gods for delivering propane-fueled power to back up our battery bank throughout stormy 2015 when the sun hides behind the clouds like a shy cat), grow enough vegetables to feed our family for 5 months via canning and root cellar storage, bake bread (and garlic naan, yum), make sauces and condiments and enjoy the simple distinction of meals where everything on our plate was created on premises. We try to eat local foods whenever possible and support our neighbors by buying direct. Then month 6 sets in and the reality of going to the grocery store for more than just supplemental items looms. After 2 weeks of this sort of shopping torture, with my focus on buying items shelved only on the periphery and ignoring the urge to run, I had an idea.
During a delicious dinner of shrimp scampi (yes, the shrimp was from Peru and the pasta from Italy), I raised the question with my family about whether or not to adopt a localvore diet for 7 days. Accustomed to my many DIY ideas, they looked at me with a look that said 'what's she up to now?"
First, after doing some research on www.vermonlocalvore.org, we discussed the many reasons why eating locally grown food and prepared products is the way to go:
Transporting food uses a ton of energy, primarily fossil fuels. Eating locally reduces energy consumption, therefore less carbon emissions are released into our atmosphere.
Regional producers become stronger and are able to expand and grow their businesses so that they can feed more people.
Food has a higher nutritional value. Processing is minimized and preservatives are less necessary since the food doesn't have to travel so far.
Mass production processes can generate foodborne illnesses. Local foods tend to be healthier and less prone to contamination.
Consumers develop relationships with their growers and have direct knowledge of how the food is grown or raised (i.e. organic seeds vs. GMO seeds). We become more deeply connected to the process, which generates greater trust and respect for the efforts required to produce food.
We are able to try products not produced en masse such as heirloom and heritage varieties. Our food choices and palettes expand.
Last but never least, FRESHER FOOD TASTES BETTER!