It’s not easy being a locavore

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Producer Leslie Watts was slap out of produce when I arrived. All he had left was tomato plants.  I don’t think they would taste very good.

Someone accused me of being wishy washy the other day.

Imagine! Me – a bullheaded May baby, born under the sign of Taurus. I form snap judgments so fast I get whip lash! I grab on to an idea like a turtle and won’t let go until it thunders – or a hurricane comes and blows it clean out of my head.

When my mind changes course it’s usually for good reason. Take my career. Originally, I wanted to be an international translator specializing in French and Italian. I dreamed of traveling the globe and hobnobbing with highly placed government operatives. Unfortunately, my first semester of college I made a D in French. So much for that dream.

Next I wanted to be an FBI agent, but by then I was over 35 and they told me I was too old. So I went to work in public relations, that nebulous line of work that attracts English and journalism majors who can’t get a decent teaching job.

Now that I’ve retired, I’ve decided to become a locavore, and I’m pretty sure I will starve to death. At least it should resolve my weight issues.

In case you aren’t informed, a locavore is someone who is committed to eating locally grown food and consuming locally grown products where ever possible. The idea is to support local producers while saving on energy costs to move the goods around the globe.

The advocates of the movement point out that produce often travels weeks to arrive at the local market, so they are picked way before prime time – thereby depleting their nutritional value, not to mention the fresh from the vine taste. I began investigating what is available locally. In my corner of the world, about all I could find is a plentiful supply of squirrels and possums. No thank you.

The whole locavore idea sounds pretty good on paper, but when you begin to put it to practice, there are a few holes in the theory. About the only thing mass produced around here for the dinner table is sweet potatoes. I don’t much care for the healthier version of the spud, unless it is mixed with copious amounts of sugar, butter and served in a pie crust.

On Saturday, I was elated when our first “community market” opened downtown. It was to be a place where folks could meet and greet, and stock up on all kinds of homegrown crafts, produce and canned goods. I was a little slow on the draw and didn’t make it to the big event until it was two hours old. I rushed over to the produce section which by then was nothing more than a big empty table.

“Where are the tomatoes,” I asked Mr. Farmer.

“What tomatoes?” said the farmer who had nothing left but a big smile and a fat wallet. “I sold out 20 minutes after we opened.” He said the crowd had descended hungrily, snapping up his snap beans, squash and tomatoes way before I had even punched the alarm clock.

Now that multiple nations are restricting food exports, locavore is a term getting some traction. I’m wondering if there is some way I can convince a local farmer to try raising olives for my oil and coffee beans for my caffeine habit. I can pretty much live without everything else.

As gasoline prices continue to climb, what’s to keep the truckers trucking? Who’s to continue bringing us Belgian chocolates and California avocados? I would seriously considering selling my city-fied digs and finding a few acres in the country if I had a clue how to raise chickens and get them to lay some eggs.

Rather than trying to source everything locally all at once, I’m going to try swapping out just four or five local foods. Fruits and vegetables are grown widely in my area and we have several wonderful “pick your own” farms in our county. In fact, I’m going on a blueberry picking adventure early tomorrow morning. I’m taking my new “green bags” to keep those babies fresh as daisies.

Have you considered that buying local means buying seasonally, which keeps us in touch with the seasons and helps us establish family traditions and memories. I’ll never forget my children gagging on boiled okra from my garden. Then one day I fried up a batch and they were suddenly sneaking them off the platter before dinner. To this day each June, they ask if I can make them some fried okra.

I think about the Chilton ( Alabama ) kids who come to our town every June to sell wonderful juicy peaches grown on their parent’s farm just across the state line. Those kids worked their way through college on peach receipts. Now they are grown and their children are selling the peaches and earning their own tuition. Word travels fast around the community when the Chilton kids arrive each year, and my thoughts automatically turn to peach cobbler.

Food with less distance to travel from farm to plate has less susceptibility to harmful contamination or bio terrorism. In light of the recent tomato “bug” and last year’s spinach debacle, that suddenly becomes more and more important to me.

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