The Eat Local Challenge!

We have been immersed in preparation for our year of eating local and are happy to see The Eat Local Challenge blog join the mix of folks blogging about local eating adventures.

The Eat Local Challenge is working on a challenge for the month of October and so, of course, we’re game! They’ve asked us to answer a few questions, including our definition of local, exemptions, and our goals for the month.

Our definition of local
We are lucky to have a lot of food available to us here in Colorado. So I’m defining local as Colorado-grown. Within 100 miles (a la the 100 mile diet) would of course be a goal to shoot for, but most of the wines and fruit in Colorado are grown on the Western slope (more than 100 miles from here), so I do make some allowances. I’m being fairly strict about both produce and processed foods: all breads, crackers and snacks need to be produced in Colorado (although we realize that a short-coming of this is not knowing if the local producers are sourcing locally–if they’re not publicizing it, they’re probably not).

Exemptions
We seem completely unable to locate local oils beyond butter. And other staples like oats, flour, and other grains are available, but harder to come by than a jaunt down to the local grocery store. Of course coffee and tea are not grown here, so our caffeine is coming from outside Colorado. And I have to be reasonable about the kids.

Although I’m willing to make my own Mac-n-Cheese and granola, and Matt & I could probably live with the local goat and raw milk cheese, Gabriel & Lily require some cheeses (primarily string cheese and Parmesan) that aren’t available locally. Nuts are also a problem and although I sourced some local pine nuts, we’re still buying other nuts and nut butters.

Matt would like to add bananas and avocados to the list, but I’m going to hold out as long as I can on those. By January, I may have to concede, and we’ll probably allow some US-grown citrus over the winter, when it’s typically tasty and widely available. And local eggs are not always available, thus our decision to get some layers this spring and try for the best kind of local–grown in our own back yard!

Oh, and I almost forgot: condiments and spices. I made my own pickles this year and am still hoping to experiment with catsup recipes. I grew a ton of herbs and bought even more at the market. But there’s no way I can live without ginger, cumin, vanilla, chocolate, and cinnamon for a year, so I’m not even going to try. Sugar is also a concern, although we’re hoping to swap out as much sugar as possible and substitute the great local honey we have here in Lyons.

Goals for the month (or year)
As I mentioned, we’re really trying to do this for a year, not just a month. The goal is a year (September 15, 2008 – September 14, 2009) of local eating, but I say that not really expecting that we’ll succeed in only eating from Colorado for a whole 12 months. Instead, we’re really hoping to find as many local sources as we can (our research started this past spring, so we’ve learned a lot already!), try them all, and come up with a feasible, primarily local, mostly plant-based organic diet that is both well-rounded a not a hardship for little people.

This experiment, when we’re done, is setting the stage for a deliberate attempt to eat locally for the rest of our lives. I consider this not only a good choice for our health and the environment, but a statement of the need for our current food systems to change. I love that blogs like The Eat Local Challenge exist to help others realize the importance of being deliberate about our food choices.