Tuesday, March 25, 2008

If not now, when? If I am only for myself, then who am I?

OK, so this post isn't about Rabbi Hillel, but this paraphrase of one of his famous quotes seems to fit the whole idea of going locavore.

But this post is about If's. On locavores.com, the Eat Local Challenge website, and I'm sure other places that I haven't found yet, there are variations on the hierarchy of what to do if you can't get local. They, in all of their variations, are excellent. But for myself, I would choose a slightly different order, as follows.
  • First, I'm going to get as much as I can that is locally grown/raised using sustainable, natural farming practices. And while I can get eggs, beef, pork, some chicken, most veggies and some fruit within 25 miles, for my own purposes, "local" is really more "regional," up to 250-300 miles away, since there are some things that just aren't available any closer.
  • If it can't be obtained local and natural, then from local small farms. The other lists put "organic" second, but considering that most non-local organic products that I can get are produced on huge industrial farms that aren't necessarily all that kind to any animals involved (if we're talking animal products, anyway), then I'll deal with some pesticides and some smaller-scale industrial farming practices before I'll bring something in from 1000+ miles away.
  • If it's not available from a local small farm, then from a Eastern-US family farm, natural/organic and within 1000 miles getting first priority. I want to try to keep the travel to a minimum, and I want to minimize my support of the huge agricultural conglomerates -- though knowing exactly who is a part of those companies these days seems to be a bit of a challenge.
  • Then if it's not available, I'll go for natural/organic from the US and natural/organic/fair trade from outside of the US.
Are these hard and fast rules? Oh hell no. First of all, I've only begun to do my research as to where the foods I buy come from. I have no idea, for example, if Daisy sour cream is made by a big conglomerate or a smaller family farm, but I DO know that they're the only sour cream out of five choices on my grocery store shelf that has one single ingredient: Cream. No additives, no thickeners, just cream. And things like that tend to jump to a higher spot on my list; not that I'm being given the option, but I'd buy Daisy sour cream over the local [non-organic] dairy's sour cream, if the local dairy made sour cream but added guar gum or some other crap to it. I did happen to notice that they're in Texas, so they're form the wrong side of the Mississippi and they're not organic, but they still get my business. For now. Until I can find a local source.
Edited to add: Daisy Brand is a fourth-generation, family-owned business... The vast majority [of its milk and cream] comes from Texas and New Mexico.
This whole locavore thing -- the whole process of conscious consumerism -- can be complicated. Seriously. I mean, is it REALLY better to buy organic milk from cows that are still force fed organic corn and raised in a factory farm setting owned by a big conglomerate who sees the profit in Organic, than to buy from a local small family-owned dairy where they still use antibiotics and industrialized dairy farm practices, but at least they're local and not a big conglomerate? How the hell do I know, for real? I don't. So I just muddle through, making the best decision at each moment that I'm able to make. Which also involves not sweating it if Partner picks up Hell-Mart brand milk for our granddaughter.

To end with another paraphrased quote, this time from Maya Angelou, I'll just do for now what I can do, and when I can do better I will do better.

There is just so much to learn. Baby steps, kiddo. Baby steps.

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