I’ve compiled some cool resources in the past couple of months relating to the “local food” movement and I wanted to share them with you and get your thoughts.
In general terms, the local food movement is an effort to build local “food communities” for both social-health and sustainability reasons. Basically, people want to become more acquainted with, and invested in, their food. It’s about empowerment, accountability and personal responsibility. This certainly isn’t anything new, but it seems to be gaining more mainstream prominence — perhaps b/c Michael Pollan has become such a vocal proponent.
Awesome National Examples
- See Grist magazine’s “Feeding the City” series, which delves into the history of urban farming and current examples of cities like Detroit where the fall of industry has led to a “community garden movement.” [see here]. This series is captivating!
- Learn about Brooklyn High School’s weekly 500-lb-organic-produce yield. Insane. [here]
- If you want to check whether a restaurant near you serves local and sustainable meats &/or produce, check the Eat Well Guide [here]
Awesome Local Examples
- More and more restaurants in my city of Long Beach, CA are promoting their own efforts to incorporate local produce. Restaurants that I know of include: The Factory, SIP, and Zephyr. Any LB-ers know of others? I know there’s tons in Los Angeles and a few in Orange County, including:
- Avanti Cafe, Costa Mesa; (vegetarian)
- Axe Restaurant, Venice
- Blue Velvet Restaurant, Los Angeles
- Chamberlain, West Hollywood
- Inerim Cafe, Santa Monica; (vegetarian)
- Jiraffe Restaurant, Santa Monica
- La Pergola, Sherman Oaks
- M Cafe de Chaya, Hollywood & Culver City
- Madeleine Bistro, Tarzana; (vegan)
- Native Foods, Westwood, O.C. & Palm Springs; (vegan)
- Newsroom Cafe, Los Angeles
- Real Food Daily, Santa Monica & West Hollywood; (vegan)
- Wrigley Garden – A local Long Beach garden, located at 1950 and 1960 Henderson Avenue [map here], with farm stands on Fridays from 2-6 p.m. [here]
- Farm Lot 59 - Another Wrigley (Long Beach) creation — Sasha Kanno, who is behind this project as well as the Wrigley Garden, recently reached her funding goals (and more!) to develop Farm Lot 59, which “will serve as an educational resource for the Long Beach community. Children, along with their parents and teachers they can come and learn about urban farming and earth’s ecosystems. A designated children’s garden is envisioned, where the plants will be identified with their nutritional information as well as alternate uses. Children will be able to meet chickens, explore the farming operation, and identify bugs and flowers. This area will feature a design specifically for children, with everything sized to fit smaller hands and bodies. The Farm will also feature an outdoor kitchen where cooking and nutrition classes can be held. For both adults and children, obesity is on the rise, although greatly preventable. Nutrition education is an important component to the Farm, starting children off young eating their fruits and vegetables, learning how to shop on a budget and preparing meals at home.” Amazing. [See here]
- Long Beach Farmers’ Markets. There are three certified farmers’ markets that I know of: 1) Downtown Long Beach on Fridays, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; 2) Southeast Long Beach (Alamitos Bay) on Sundays from 9 a.m. – 2p.m.; and 3) Uptown Long Beach (Atlantic & 46th) on Thursdays from 3 – 6:30 p.m. There is also a Farmers’ Market at Marine Stadium on Wednesdays from 2 – 7 p.m. (I don’t think it’s “certified,” but I also don’t think that matters…)
The Debates on Local Food, Sustainability
- A recent opinion piece by Stephen Budiansky in The New York Times addresses “locavores” and aims to complicate the common belief that local food production and consumption are inherently more energy efficient (“green”) and virtuous [here]. For example, he breaks down transportation costs — a figure often wielded by locavores to promote local food communities — to show that they’re not as egregious as many think. Here’s an excerpt: “…the local food movement now threatens to devolve into another one of those self-indulgent — and self-defeating — do-gooder dogmas. Arbitrary rules, without any real scientific basis, are repeated as gospel by ‘locavores,’ celebrity chefs and mainstream environmental organizations. Words like ‘sustainability’ and ‘food-miles’ are thrown around without any clear understanding of the larger picture of energy and land use. The result has been all kinds of absurdities. For instance, it is sinful in New York City to buy a tomato grown in a California field because of the energy spent to truck it across the country; it is virtuous to buy one grown in a lavishly heated greenhouse in, say, the Hudson Valley.”
- Slow Food USA responded (to the above) on their Facebook: “Why eat local? Is it just about the food miles? We’d argue it’s also about eating the freshest most delicious food; supporting local economies/ businesses; building community; having a connection to your food. It’s true that we need more infrastructure for small-mid sized agriculture to be more fuel efficient. Your thoughts?”
- I’d add that while I agree with Budiansky that we cannot, in any aspect of our lives, keep our eyes solely on the “local” — (which would be impossible given our global economy, IMO), but what neither SlowFoodUSA or Budiansky address is how the local food movement is also a counter to agribusiness and, for me, a counter to the cruelty inherent in its systems. That’s where I feel most strongly about the local food movement — I can’t fully grasp where my refrigerator uses more electricity than it would cost (energy-wise) for me to eat a banana from Ecuador; but I know that I fear where agribusinesses are headed and eating food that is local eases that fear just a little. Also, it should be made clear that like with all movements there are various “factions.” For instance, going to a restaurant that uses only local produce does not mean that it’s a vegan restaurant. Many restaurants, including Long Beach’s SIP and The Factory, serve “sustainable meat” — those two words, to many vegans, are antithetical to each other. Additionally, for example, another idea gaining popularity for its locavore appeal (and its counter to agribusiness’ current slaughter practices), is mobile slaughterhouses [read here]. I get that we’d really know where our meat came from if we could hear our cows being killed in a slaughterhouse on wheels, but would these mobile units meet, fall below, or exceed the horrendous “standards” of mainstream slaughterhouses in terms of animal sedation, and regulatory measures? Thoughts?
- Michael Pollan released an article called “The Food Movement, Rising” in The New York Review of Books (June) [here] — it was an intricate review of books, history and progress on the food movements. Of course, a lot of his opinions on the local food movement, for instance, are highly contested. Some opponents argue over semantics, others with fear that “local food” movements inherently include a narrow-mindedness to global (and fair) trade. See his critics respond to his initial article [here]; Pollan addresses some critics directly, as well.
- Neal Beets writes in the International City/County Management Association’s publication PM about practical applications for Michael Pollan and Wendell Berry’s research & approach [here]. This a very interesting look at how people at the city government level can actually apply Pollan and Berry’s research to affect change at the local level with things like Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), farmer’s markets, LEED building practices, community gardens, and more.
My Support for Local Food
- I recently joined my local CSA, Beachgreens, and received my first drop-off of fresh, local and organic produce:
I plan to do a cost-comparison between joining a CSA and buying your own organic produce b/c I know that financial limitations bar a lot of people from buying organic produce. So, we’ll see! Of course, the best thing I could do would be to start my own garden. In the works!
Do you make a conscious effort to eat local and sustainable foods? If yes, how? If not, why not? Any resources and/or additional local- and sustainable-foods-focused restaurants you can point me to? How do you feel about the term “sustainable meat”?
p.s. This was written earlier today when I was at Panera Bread in Irvine hijacking their free internet while listening to Chef Tanya of Native Foods give a presentation outside her restaurant! I listened to her talk about vegan cheese & pesto, while asking the audience their astrological signs and handing out cake samples. Gotta love her I was waiting to meet, and have since met, the adorable and amazing Jasmine from Eat, Move, Write! It was my first blogger meet-up, and, well, any others will have a really high bar of expectations after this meeting! Love her!
The Cranky One