The Hyper-Local Challenge

Aug 03 2010

Thought Experiment: Could I get to the point where 100% of the food I eat for myself is made from local ingredients?

It’s an interesting thought. Let’s establish a few parameters:

  1. “Local” means within 100 miles.
  2. This doesn’t count social meals; going out with co-workers for drinks or taking friends or family out to a restaurant.
  3. I wouldn’t force this on my hosts if a guest at someone eles’s house, nor would I force it on my own guests.

First question: How about local restaurants? I can’t be sure that their ingredients are local. So that’s out.

"Summer Vegetable Garden" by di_the_huntress on Flickr

"Summer Vegetable Garden" by di_the_huntress on Flickr

So. Let’s stroll through my fridge, freezer, and cabinets, and see how big of a challenge thus would be.

  • Dairy — I already get my dairy from a local farm.
  • Meat — Ditto.
  • Vegetables — I could freeze and can vegetables in the growing season.
  • Fruit — Ditto.
  • Condiments — Well, Heinz didn’t invent ketchup. I could always make my own; that’s how housewives did it 100 years ago.
  • Flour and cornmeal — There are actually local mills that mill flour, though I’d have to get a lot at once (2 to 5 pounds).  That’s not unreasonable.
  • Sugar — Fortunately, sugar can be substituted with honey in most recipes.
  • Beans — Grow my own, or buy local varieties. Fortunately, I don’t eat a lot of beans, so this wouldn’t be a huge burden.
  • Nuts — I do know of several local nut farms.
  • Rice — Okay, this just can’t be done. So, I suppose, I just wouldn’t eat rice at home.
  • Salt, pepper, and other spices — Also impossible.
  • Flavored extracts

What about other ingredients that simply can’t be grown locally, like coconut and pineapple? For the purposes of this experiment, and for now, they’re banned from consumption.

How do I eat in the winter, when no food is grown? Same as my ancestors: can food during the growing season, or use easily-preserved foods like dried beans. Plus, thanks to my local dairy, I can have meat and dairy in any season.

I could actually get pretty close to my 100% goal, if I wanted to. I don’t, yet.  But now that I’ve worked the numbers, a part of my brain is pointing out how healthy this would be.


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