Eating Priorities: Local, In-season, Organic – Oh My!

August 5, 2009 at 10:07 am

I’m beginning to question how to go about eating local without sacrificing one thing for another. I can’t imagine what Barbara Kingsolver, author of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, went through when she had to sit the family down to discuss their grocery list as they entered a year of living off the land. As I read, I try to put myself in her shoes and can see Camille’s eyes calling on sympathy just to have some fresh fruit in April. Amazing to think that in parts of this country and this city that its like pulling teeth for kids to drop the bag of fire hot Cheetos for a fresh apple. Here we have a perfectly “healthy”; request from a child that will be sacrificed for eating local. But, is it really a sacrifice…

For me, the most important part of eating is flavor. If the meal, veggie, fruit, piece of meat or other, lacks flavor, there really was no point to eating said item other than keeping my stomach from grumbling. When you are eating Local and in season there really is no sacrifice here. This is why I wait until July to eat sweet, juicy corn on the cob and walk by the rows of tomatoes at the supermarket to “smell test” until late July or August before they make it into my basket. In this case, I am not sacrificing flavor for eating local but what about eating local over eating organic.

I am not militant about eating organic but it is something that I try to incorporate in my life when possible. Surely, I can ask the farmer at the farmers’ market or my CSA farm but when I step foot in the produce aisle at Whole Foods I see a sea of organic labels with states of origin that are not my own. California tomatoes, peaches and grapes! Its tomato season in the Midwest and not one Illinois, Michigan or Wisconsin farm is to be seen. Enter my eating dilemma…Those tomatoes sure smell ripe and they would compliment my evening meal so well but why are they from California when they could be from a neighboring farm. So here I make a sacrifice – no tomatoes for dinner.

So, I am wondering for those that are making an effort to eat local, how do you balance without making yourself crazy? Eating and cooking is supposed to be an enjoyable and nourishing experience that I can share with others. How do I make sure I am not sacrificing flavor and some conveniences, like shopping at the grocery store, for eating local?

Read Carrie’s earlier post on her experiences reading Kingsolver.



  1. Rob Gardner says:

    Great post Carrie! Your questions are right on. Look at tip 4 in my 18 tips on living local: “Don’t make yourselves nuts”

    We started this site with the motive to make local eating practical. We advocate for a relaxed form. In fact, Michael does not even want to be called a locavore, feeling it implies extremism and asceticism. Don’t try to make yourself nuts eating behind some a pre-defined border, nor do not restrict yourself from foods that you need and love.

    That said, my family does try to follow two principles. First, if we can find it locally, then we eat it locally. This means that we wait for local tomatoes to eat our tomatoes, but we’ll eat non-local bananas whenever we need. Second, we prefer the local. So, we will not avoid bananas or oranges, but if there is local fruit, we will go there first. Still, like I say, there is no more important rule that the, don’t make yourself nuts rule. This Spring, when citrus was running out and we were pretty tired of apples, we decided that California seedless grapes were so different anyways from our local grapes, that we got some.

    Carrie, to this Local Family, the pleasure has come from the journey. Finding what works. Finding how to make it work. We came in mostly for taste and a sense of adventure, but over time, we have become committed to the environmental and communitarian reasons for local. Do what makes sense and I believe you will be just as pleased.

    • Carrie Becker says:

      Thanks Rob! After I wrote the post, I read through your tips. Huge help! I think I can easily adopt the principle of not limiting but refining choices — eating local where applicable and sourcing food items for other areas if the produce is not native to our area.

  2. Heather says:

    I have found it super easy to eat local by joining a CSA. We joined a CSA for veggies & cheese that are local and our CSA also offers a fruit share which obviosly is not local (since we live in MN). Fruit comes from all around the country but is organic. Mostly I like that we are at least supporting smaller farms than if we buy from Cub. I also recently discovered meat CSAs. Through that we get 20lbs of organic/grass fed/free range meats monthly. A hidden benefit to CSAs? No more hour-long trips at the grocery store w kid(s) in tow! I get to just pick up my shares & be done. FABULOUS!

    • Carrie Becker says:

      Yes, my CSA is a great way to begin to plan a week of meals. It really is all about planning in advance. So when I get my CSA on Saturday I can start to form meal ideas then if I need a few more ingredients I can hit up my local farmers market for the remainder. My husband and I considered the meat CSA but even the smaller shares seemed a bit large for us. We will likely look into it a bit more. I would love to cut down my time at the grocery store :) Thanks for your comment and ideas.

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