Food is one area where I could have done better during my 2020 experiment in living locally. So to make up for it, I decided to commit to only buying local food during December, the last month of my experiment. This time, I was able to recruit my wife and son into the fun.
We decided on the following rules for our local food adventure:
- We can only purchase food produced or processed locally
- We defined local anything within 120-miles of our home. If you look on a map, Sonoma, Sacramento, and Monterey would be near north, east, and south perimeters of that boundary, respectively
- We can only buy from local retailers and restaurants. No Safeways or Chilis.
When I mentioned this to Shareable staff, my colleague Tom teased that I sure had picked a difficult month to go local food-wise. That would be true in much of the U.S., but the Bay Area’s mild weather enables year-round farming. We’ve had no problem so far getting a wide variety of food.
That’s a good thing because my family was initially resistant to the idea. They have their favorite foods, most of which come from way outside our new local foodshed. Plus, they’re not always as eager to experiment as I am. I’m a resource-conserving freak, which invites good-natured ribbing for doing things like consolidating ketchup packets. I consider responsible consumption good citizenship, but also a fun, creative challenge. Others in my house don’t always see it that way, but they’re coming around.
Our local food challenge is a case in point. We did our first full-fledged local shopping run last Sunday at Mountain View’s award-winning farmers’ market, which is walking distance from our home. It’s really a wonder.
First of all, it’s huge. It has 80 stands offering fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, berries, nuts, fish, beef, pork, chicken, baked goods, and more catering to a diverse clientele that’s come from around the world to work in Silicon Valley.
The prepared food on offer is equally impressive. You can get French-styled charcuterie, tamales, Chinese dumplings, dal, samosas, pasta, hummus, smoked salmon, jams, butters…the list goes on.
It’s not unusual for me to find a few things I’ve never seen before, like limes coming from trees cross-pollinated with lemon trees. The result: limes with the juiciness of lemons.
My wife Andrea and I strolled through the market for an hour stocking up for a week’s worth of meals. It was a fun mini-adventure filled with discovery, food banter, and crucial decisions about our sustenance for the week.
On the way back home with our haul in tow, we talked about prices. The food was more expensive, but we guessed that the indirect benefits more than made up for this. Things like better health, more enjoyment, a stronger, greener local economy are priceless, but probably have very tangible long-term benefits.
We also had to make some adjustments. The meat is high quality, but much more expensive. Consequently, we’re buying less of it. That’s good for us, our budget, and the environment. We also needed an alternative to parmesan cheese, which we love on pasta. That took some doing, but we found a local hard cheese to try.
The real test came in the eating over the next week. Without fail, my wife and son found everything we bought tastier than big brands. Andrea said the raspberries were raspberry-ier. Jake raved about the samosas. I dug the dal. Everything was simply superior. We weren’t surprised local food was better, but committing to an encompassing experiment drove the point home in a powerful way.
I was stoked. This turned an experiment that my family was skeptical about into a new, better reality. We had occasionally gone to our farmers’ market in the past, but this proof of concept might be the start of a new, regular habit for our family.