A new generation eating local foods

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118902430623147.jpg’, ‘Photo by Sonia Vogl’, ‘Local farm market (Barnhart’s Stone Corners Farm Market).‘);

Aug. 12, Alisa Smith, co-author of Plenty, spoke to an appreciative audience at the Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair about her and J.B. Mackinnon’s adventure in eating local foods for a year. What we were struck by in their story was how what they considered an experiment and had to learn to do was a way of life when we were young. Our parents bought local foods in season and preserved them for later consumption. It was a common practice until the advent of modern appliances, which lessened household chores and energy subsidies, which lowered the cost of food. A mother can now find outside employment that pays far more than what would be saved by home food preparation.

Before our children started school, Sonia stayed home with them and found time to can much of our food supply. When she returned to teaching, there was less time for canning. During the 1980s, we were surprised to hear many of the young women undergraduates we worked with boast that they never learned to cook and had no intention of ever cooking. We taught our children to cook to provide them with a sense of taking care of themselves and a measure of independence.

So once again we are surprised to learn that two 30-year-olds have become global celebrities for their successful venture of eating local foods for a year. They are wonderful writers and tell a great story of what it took them to find the foods, learn to prepare them and eventually become skilled at what was common to earlier generations. Of course, there are plenty of chuckles when reading of the many miscues they experienced in setting out on the first day of spring to only eat foods raised within 100 miles of their home in Vancouver. Their tales are filled with pleasant surprises as they came to realize the pleasures and adventures involved in finding new sources of local foods and learning how to prepare them.

Their self-imposed challenge was a response to the excessive energy consumption inherent in the global food system dominating our supermarkets. As people deal with the challenges of rising energy prices and global warming, eating local foods is likely to increase. Each new food safety alarm adds to the momentum. An increasing number of people want to know the origin of their foods whether they were raised in a clean and ecologically sound manner. They are willing to support local farmers growing local foods. Some are motivated by the desire to slow the loss of diversity in the world’s food supply. Seed Savers in Decorah, Iowa, facilitates preserving food diversity by encouraging gardeners to grow diverse crops and exchange seeds with each other.

While the skills involved in preserving foods for out-of-season consumption is similar across generations, the motivations today are less financial than in the times of our parents. For now, environmental and health concerns are top priorities. However, rising energy prices, low wages and uncertain employment opportunities can make economic motivations quite powerful for many families.

While our garden commitments have diminished as we run the energy fair, knowledge of local food sources is growing. The growing interest in eating locally was evident by the presence of Stone Corner Farm Market, Iowa Healthy Meats, Learn Great Foods and Rolling Meadows Sorghum Mill and information from Choices Natural Market, Farm Direct and MOSES at this year’s fair.

For those interested in learning a first step in food independence, IREA will host a workshop on canning and preserving near Oregon, Ill. Saturday, Oct. 13.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are also active in preserving natural areas. They are retired professors from Northern Illinois University. from the Sept. 5 – Sept. 11, 2007, issue

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