There is, in Corvallis, a deeply head belief that, when the apocalypse comes, in the form of a 9.9 earthquake (we were all profoundly impacted by the New Yorker article last summer), we will be saved by eating from our neighborhood gardens. Although I am a deep believer in local food, eating from my own backyard, and supporting local farmers, I am a realist. I know that we would be VERY hungry if we tried to survive on our backyard. Even now, in the peak of ripeness, when there are vegetables all around us, we would be hungry. I would hate to try and survive on our garden and basement storage in late March, when there is mustard and kale and little else.
I have tracked our consumption, by volume and by calories, several times in the past few years. We are 99% local in our vegetable consumption, year round. We raise most of our own produce during the summer months and purchase the rest from very local farmers, directly and from the market. We also store potatoes, squashes, and onions for the winter and put up canned and dried fruit from neighborhood trees. This is a clear positive for all of us. Our food is fresher and more alive; our local farmers benefit from the support; it requires less (if any) fuel to transport. Local produce is a clear winner.
We eat about 90% of our dairy from within one hundred miles of home, which is also quite easy. Our milk comes from a local dairy and I make our yogurt from it. Most cheese and eggs are local as well—eggs travel about fifty feet from hen to pan. At one point, I knew where our butter came from, but the dairy is no longer selling anywhere in town. We like having local dairy products and have adjusted some of our tastes to focus on the local cheese. Aside from eggs, the calories from dairy are not produced in the backyard or the neighborhood.
Beans and grains form the backbone of our diet. About half of our calories come from local sources. I but wheat berries, oatmeal, and barley from local farmers. The wheat, after being ground in the kitchen aid mill, is added to white flour from Eastern Washington to make our daily bread. We eat a great deal of bread! Oatmeal is standard breakfast fare. Our beans also come from local farmers; we can purchase garbanzos, pintos, Indian woman, and black beans from farmers and the co-op Almost all of our beans come from within ten miles of home. We do not produce significant amount of beans and grains. It requires far more land than we have in our back yard.
However, we also eat pasta, rice, and other grains for dinner, and none of those are locally produced—yet. When I add in the oils, spices, and vinegars that liven up our foods, it is clear that we do not begin to produce what we would need to survive. We purchase and produce about half of our calories locally. And we are committed to the process, willing to pay more for our food to help expand the local markets. I don’t think a community garden is going to go very far towards feeding the neighborhood.
Early September Menu
Friday: oatmeal with grapes
Potato and chard curry, rice leftovers)
Whole wheat pasta with eggplant, tomato, zucchini, onion
Saturday: oatmeal waffles
Black bean soup, coleslaw
Sunday: toast and tea
Out for lunch
Baked potatoes, melon and cucumber salad
Monday: yogurt and granola
Out for lunch (very unusual to have to lunches out in a week)
Tomato pie and apple pie
Tuesday: oatmeal and grapes
Tomato pie leftovers
Zucchini soup, whole wheat bread, salad
Bulgur salad with nuts, dried cherries, tomatoes on a bed of lettuce
Sources for our local foods:
Sunbow Farm-- beans and veg, best around
GreenWillow Grains-- wheat and oatmeal
Denison Farms--CSA and bulk onions