By Leah Larsen
The reality of local food year is setting in. We are not eating 100% local food and it is not because of availability. Our cool room is filled with winter squash, pumpkins, potatoes, onions, leeks, and apples. We have goat milk from our mama goat Melina and we are regularly making cheese. Asian greens, spinach, kale, and cabbage are growing under cover in the hoop house and garden. The Food Hub has a regular supply of meat, honey, eggs, and wild rice. The storage shelves are full, but not full enough, of pickled asparagus, beans, peppers, pickles, tomato sauce, and jams. The freezer holds frozen strawberries, applesauce, corn, peas, and roasted tomatoes. Jars are stuffed with dried tomatoes, peppers, apples, pears, and herbs. Fermented hot sauce and kimchi sit in the fridge. Fat Uncle Farms’s whole wheat flour sits in a large bag on the shelf and sourdough starter waits for me on top of the fridge.
That sounds like a lot and it is more food than we have ever put up before. So why are we eating only about 75% local? Honest to goodness truth here. It comes down to time and convenience and what is realistic for our family. We are all on the go a lot during the week with work, school, and extracurricular activities. It is hard to plan ahead to have enough meals, snacks, and nourishment prepared at all times. My girls exclaim that they are starving after an afternoon playing soccer with friends followed by dance class, and more dried apples just won’t cut it. I give in. We head to Holiday and buy Kind bars or a bag of almonds to get us through the hour drive home. It makes me think of how we have become so used to our needs being met instantly. And as a parent, it has been my instinct to meet my children’s’ needs with food at any time, anywhere. Has this helped them? Of course, they don’t really know what it means to be starving. The feeling of hunger is healthy. Is it natural to always have that need met instantaneously? Would it build strength to endure hunger? I am always seeking that balance as a parent.
Meal preparation and food preservation take a lot of time. Time that sometimes feels like we don’t have. We cherish the weekends when we don’t have to go anywhere. I tend to cook all weekend. We enjoy big meals and enjoy the beautiful place where we live. But then the week hits and we are on the go, trying to scrape up enough leftovers and prepared food to get us through the week. We each eat something prepared or packaged from a restaurant or store at least once a week. It feels like a treat at the time, and then it makes my body long for local home-cooked food.
Although we have not been able to meet the challenge fully, the Local Food Experience has caused us to focus on and appreciate the local food that is abundant in Modoc County. It has challenged us to try new foods and new recipes, get together with friends around food, think about hunger and packaging, health and choices. That is why I like the name Local Food Experience because it is about so much more than just food. Sometimes I feel bad when we sit down for lunch and our friends bring out their 100% local lunch and I bring out the store-bought bread and peanut butter. But I am trying to honor where we are at with it. We have definitely made improvements to our diet and have cherished our local food experience for all that is has brought us. This is one year but I think this experience will continue for the rest of our lives. This is just the first step and we are okay with it not being perfect.