10 Lessons From the Local Food Experiment

In June, I began an experiment where I had the goal of eating only foods purchased from area farms or that which I could grow myself in our small space. In these months, I have learned some valuable lessons.

#1 – Beginning this challenge in June was a horrible idea. Had I asked real people instead of looking online, I would have realised that nothing is ready in June. Even the grow houses looked at me like I was stupid when I asked about it. Seems that even the sun is shining brightly, really the only thing growing in our climate in the month of June is butter flowers and rhubarb…

#2 – You cannot eat rhubarb every day. Rhubarb contains a certain chemical which can be bad for the kidneys. As rhubarb can be very tart, it is always best eaten with some kind of cream or custard (which can also work to balance out this bad chemical).

#3 – While it’s a freeing feeling to forage butter flowers for food, they can also be quite bitter. Do not take the largest leaves. Those are the worst tasting and it doesn’t matter how much spice you put on it, it will not improve the taste. I learned that those small leaves, the beginning ones in the spring are the best tasting. Also, the flowers can be fried. Those first flowers in the spring are the best ones though.

#4 – If I had to trust my own grown food to feed myself, I would starve. I was excited to put lots of seeds to pots and watch them grow. They grew. And grew. And grew more. But nothing came beyond being a flower. We got about 2 small cucumber and a few mint-sized tomato. The squashes and aubergine made many flowers only. Kale is growing, for the first time. I have been able to take a few leafs for mixing with salads. It makes me happy 🙂 Chilis are the one plant that grow nicely. I have heard that the weather has been unpredictable all over the world, so I am trying to not dislike myself too much about it.

#5 – Farmers need sales this year. Something I had not considered, is the affect that the Covid-19 pandemic would have on small farms. I quickly learnt that many small farms have contracts with restaurants or their distribution. I always had in my mind that it would only be the large corporate agriculture which would carry these types of contracts, but I was mistaken. A side issue of the pandemic restrictions and closings of restaurants worldwide is that these farms do not have the sales they had planned for when planting. What this means is that farmers find themselves with an excess amount of food items ready for harvesting with nowhere to go and no pay for them + limited access to workers to help in harvesting. In this circumstance, many farmers are happy to sell their harvested items to customers visiting the farm.

#6 – In the middle of a global health crises, is the worst time to restrict one’s food sourcing ability. I re-launched the experiment this year because I wanted to stay out of the food shops as much as was possible. I did and purchasing larger amounts from farms in surrounding areas helped me to eat healthier and to stay away from the food shops for longer. However…. when I did visit the food shops I did not restrict myself. I tried, the first few times. But then I realised how stupid it was to not take home affordable food items like pastas, rice and porridge. Okei…. and maybe a few snickers bars for mental happiness 😉 (I have a snickers addiction. If anyone works with the Snickers business, please remember my appetite for the treats) So I purchased those.

#7 – Learn foraging from a person who has spent their life foraging foods. Going into the forest for searching berries, mushrooms and other wild edibles is really nice in theory until you realise that you aren’t certain if that plant is poisonous or no and then the whole thing goes to compost. Berries look very similar and if one is not well educated in natures plants, the result of eating these toxic beasts can really give you a night to remember. Best to learn from someone who knows it, and to doubt yourself until you are certain.

#8 – People will remember you. Visit a farm many times for purchasing food items and explain that you are trying to eat more sustainably – and people will remember it. Some looked at me as a crazy person But others began to try to help me. Example; one farm began to offer me possibility to purchase the second or third class vegetables. Those are which cannot be sold in the shops because … its that ugly fruit thing. That nobody wants to just buy ugly looking foods. So, I got them for discount and they taste just as nice. + I got to give myself a sustainable award (in my mind) for reducing food waste and for saving money.

#9 – Fresh food is seasonal. We all know this. But I more like mean very short season because no refrigerated trucks or those things. Want fresh strawberries? Okei, but you have 2 weeks when can take those. All berries seem to be the same. Some foods have longer times of constant harvest, others do not. So have plan with what you want to do with those and purchase them while it is possible.

#10 – Many people are planting this year! This is something I am very happy about, although it did frustrate my own plans. I am happy because I think quite often that if each of us – every person that has the capability to do so – could have at least one food producing plant on their terraces or windows, then it would increase our individual possibility for food sourcing by at least that much, that it could help with the current global food security issues. This is not a ‘let them cake’ moment, so don’t be angry. I do understand that in many places, growing anything is an impossibility. I am more meaning those of us who have the possibility to have some herbs growing or a tomato or child plant, even a salad plant, that overall it would help to lessen our dependence on food shops and online food orders – as well as the money spent on those. If there is any one lessen that I have learned in 2020, it is that disruptions happen and the way we usually do things in our lives may not always be that way.

Have you been planting? Do you have any wisdom for sharing? Please share with us in the comments!

Thank you for reading!

-Mliae

I am Beginning The Local Food Experiment Starting 1 June!

This challenge/experiment is something I have created for myself. I tried it 2 years ago as a back-to-basics sustainable challenge.  I spent much time thinking about how different our relationship with food is, than it was example, 50 – 100 years ago.

As the economy is suffering greatly, and I try to avoid visiting the shops during Covid-19  as much as I just can, it seems to be that this could be an ideal opportunity to again challenge my relationship with food. I have been thinking quite often about trying my back-to-basics sustainable eating series that I challenged myself to two years ago.  I challenged myself to eat only those items which I was able to grow myself, purchase from local farms or buy locally made or produced items only. Aside from that, I did have set limits for myself of what I was ‘permitted’ to purchase at the food shops. As I was also trying to learn how to bake more in so to limit my need for prepackaged, mass produced, chemical laden ready food.  I learned how to bake 2 items: Flat bread and current muffins. It got me through, but 2 options is not enough for any extended time.

When I did the challenge last time, I was ill prepared and I was not able to keep with the challenge for long. This time, I am a bit more familiar with some of the challenges I will be facing and I hope that I can use this knowledge to better prepare myself. I understand now that locally made items will cost more, that just because you plant something does not mean it will grow food for you, that most recipes need too many ingredients (where are the simple recipes?!), that actually a lot more plants are needed to feed a person than one would think, and that eating berries instead of cakes makes me cranky.

I am waiting until the 1st June to start this challenge. That allows for a few days time that I can look up and contact some farms in the rural areas outside of the city and ask that are they even selling to people with the current Covid-19 restrictions. If I am unable to purchase grown food items from the farms, this challenge will be impossible. Rhubarb is growing, and I also can find dandelion easily.  However, a diet of rhubarb and dandelion sounds quite awful. I will order also few hanging planters of small tomato and strawberry plants. Also, as it takes time for the food to grow, it will take time that I can purchase the items from the farms also even if they are using grow house.

I will be setting limitations on my food shopping, same as the last time. This time though, I really need to think more about it because last time, it was only about the challenge. This time, its about pandemic, bad economy and the challenge. So makes those purchasing decisions a bit more important this time.  I will announce the food shop limitations on the first day of the challenge. I will be purchasing fish though. As much fish as I just can. Cheese & coffee also, for certain.

There are two exceptions I am making for myself. #1 – Last time, I ate meals separately and it seemed a waste. My husband is liking the thought of eating locally, but I am not asking him to do this strict challenge with me. I have decided, due to trying not to spend money, if my husband makes a meal enough for both of us, I will eat what he makes.  This was not something I allowed for myself last time and it seemed like unnecessary money was being spent to eat those meals separately on the occasions there was enough extra food for me. #2 Food gifts are allowed. If I find myself opening a package of food items or husband buys me an ice cream on a day out (Hah! He will remind me of this post instead), I am probably going to eat it. And enjoy it 🙂

I am not confident in my ability to do this. This will be incredibly difficult, more so than last time, and I can’t cheat with food shopping because well, what’s the purpose of doing this if I don’t do it? (Besides, I have some friends who found their way to this blog & I know that I will hear about it with quite loud voice.) I will, of course, be blogging about it. I will also share any new recipes (the simple ones that don’t ask for 30 ingredients), info about what kinds of food items I’m eating (no worries, I will not be sharing a list of meals), I will also share if it has helped me in losing the extra weight and probably a bit (more) of complaining also.

Thank you for reading and I hope that you will gain some interest about this journey.

Mliae