Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm Thankful For . . .

My Thanksgiving post will be tomorrow, but as I've been cooking these last couple of days I've really thought about the garden year and what I'm thankful for. It isn't what you expect. I grow my own organic food and shop at farmers markets. I compost. I give to the Nature Conservancy every year. I belong to freecycle so I don't have to throw things away. When I go out to eat I bring my own take out containers for the leftovers. So I'm into the green spectrum of things where most people want local. Heck I'm even a crafter so want people to think local when they buy for purely personal reasons. You wouldn't think that what I'm thankful for is the non-local food.

I've watched the local food movement grow. I even follow some blogs that are trying to be as food local as possible. But I don't believe in a 100% local food system. I do believe in a partially local food system for all the usual reasons. But I'm thankful that it isn't 100% local.

Years ago I read a paper about the why one country was starving in Africa. It wasn't that it didn't produce enough food to feed all of its people. It did. The problem is that it didn't have a national food system in place. Part of the paper was about food subsidies and the boom and bust cycle of growing. The previous year had been a boom. Too much was produced and the prices fell. The next year there were fewer farmers growing food. Which was problem number one. The second problem was they had a drought in one part of the country. Add them together and you have a population that can't feed itself. The other part of the paper was how a non-local food economy could have saved them all from starvation. They had no transport or distribution system set up. So had no way of getting the food from the people who had extra to the people who needed it.

This year we had a bad growing season for many things due to an over abundance of rain. I had two crop failures in major calorie crops (corn and winter squash - though to be fair if I had done a later corn I would have been fine). If New England had had to rely on our own production we would have been in trouble. Winter wheat (which accounts for about 3/4 of our US wheat crop) is harvested in late spring and early summer. This was during the time of our weird wet weather. The crop would have rotted in the ground. I tried drying and saving peas this year but because of the timing they all rotted.

So this year I'm thankful for our distributed food system that provides me food no matter what our weather has been. If we are in a drought or we are innundated with rain, I can still eat.


  1. I think this is a very profound post, Daphne. It's too easy to sit in judgment on others, and far harder to really look at the conditions they're dealing with and accept their solutions. Flexibility is key, yet rigidity is so much simpler. (Example: I'm a passionate vegetarian, but wouldn't dream of judging someone because they were not: They could be doing far more good in the world than I could even imagine.) Thanks for a great reminder, and a joyous Thanksgiving to you and yours!---Silence

  2. You are making such a good point. Local is wonderful and important, it supports local producers and economies and I think it usually provides fresher more nutritious food. But can you imagine any urban area, even one in an agriculturally rich area such as where I live, depending solely on local food? It's not possible.

    Have a joyous Thanksgiving!

  3. This growing season made me mindful of the same thing. We even had to have pumpkins imported! I am grateful to be connected to a greater web even as I try to do as much for myself as possible. It's all about balance.

    Happy Thanksgiving, dear Daphne!

  4. Good post Daphne, lots of good statements. Civilization has never had a 100% local system and it is not really possible to have one. One thing that is concerning is how much the food system is dependent on oil. Not that we are running out anytime soon but I am a believer in peak oil.

  5. Very good post, Daphne. I tend to lean towards being a locavore too, but I know that there needs to be a balance- grateful that a balance exists here in our country. I do think that depending solely on our system can be dangerous too- I strive to grow what I can even when our economy is doing well. I also lean towards eating seasonally as much as I can, which I think is important not only for the system, but also for our health. Over taxing the system, say with food miles being much greater than needed, is something that could be worked on- after all if we can get a tomato from California, why ship it from Mexico?

  6. Silence, rigidity is always so much easier. You know what to do if you know the rules, but in all things I think it is better to think then just follow party lines. Life has a lot of shades of gray.

    Michelle, And I do love local food (which ought to be obvious to anyone that reads my blog). There is a reason that most of our farmers in the northeast don't grow grain. If you look really hard there are a few that do, but we are better at things that need more rain (most years).

    June, I think you are right. Balance is the key. A good local food network is important, but in conjunction with a distributed system.

    Dan, I think it is possible to have one, but it means a cycle of starvation when the weather doesn't cooperate. I agree with you on the oil part. The industrial food system is oil hungry in so many ways. It isn't a renewable resource so eventually we will have to switch over. I'm just hoping we switch over before we are forced to. At some point we will have reached peak oil (no consensus on when, but sometime it has to happen since it is nonrenewable). But will it be when we still need the oil (creating economic upheaval) or will we have switched over enough to make the transition not create havoc. I'm much more into the easier transition. It costs us now yes, but in the long run it is an kinder solution overall.

    Tessa, I think health is one of the big benefits of eating locally. From my garden or at the farmers market the food is very fresh. Food shipped across the country is often a week old. Plus if you buy from the local farmers you can ask what has been sprayed on it. Of course when I grow my own I just don't put anything toxic on my food ever. So much healthier.

    Jan :>

  7. That's been the biggest realization I've made this summer. I couldn't agree more.

  8. Good observations Daphne. I feel quite strongly about increasing our own food production but also see a place in our food supply for purchases and imports. I just prefer that we do a whole lot less of it and that it is REAL food that gets transported and not highly processed frankenfoods. I find myself more fixed on that last point with each passing year.

  9. miss m, I found it a hard thing not to notice this summer. At least it got better in the fall.

    kitsapFG, I agree. I wish I ate all unprocessed food. It doesn't happen 100% but I think I do a decent job. Sadly that isn't true for the rest of the family. I try to get them to eat well, but it doesn't always happen.