How exactly do you define ‘Local’?

For the entire month of April we will be in a challenge to only eat local food, organised by the good people at Happyzine. The boundary set for local is 200km from your house.  Which is actually quite generous considering where we live is often referred to as the bread basket of the nation.  We are in the heart of a rich agricultural and horticultural community and surrounded by many innovative small, medium and large food businesses.

200km radius, Eat Local Challenge

This is it – our geographical fence. 200km radius from our place. No ‘foreign’ food shall pass.

We are going to do our very best in this challenge, however I do want to point out that I have two very hungry boys who are bottomless pits that are next to impossible to fill. So I won’t do anything that will interfere with growth spurts and deny basic nutrients that will silence the “I’m hungry” that is always set to the delightful tune of moan.  Therefore I will allow wheat based products across our threshold as things would fall apart at the seams without bread and weetbix.

Weebix and milk   Eat Local Challenge

Weebix fills a gap that only Weebix can fill with growing boys

As a raw material wheat has been grown nearby this summer with vast fields recently harvested of their golden crops.  It is not only possible to grow wheat locally, there was even a field at the end of our road and that crop had to go somewhere, and who’s to say it didn’t end up in bread or weetbix – both of with are manufactured within my 200km radius.   Even more locally I grow wheat in my garden and will be planting some very soon as autumn is the perfect time to sow it for a spring harvest.  Ok so it won’t be ready in time for the challenge – but the intention is there.   However loosely, we will cling to our wheat based products, Hubby the Un-Gardener and I will try to keep our consumption to as minimum and it may even benefit us, but the boys will not starve.

growing wheat   Eat Local Challenge

I can and do grow wheat

I think our wild card ingredient may have to be sugar.  While it is processed within my 200km radius, even I am pushing it to say it is local as sugar cane isn’t something grown here and definitely not within 200km.  I did try growing sugar beet once.  Maybe I should try again as most of Europe get their sugar from sugar beet.  But it is such a small window between being not ready yet and being past it and bitter and disguising!  The thing is I have a lot of crops that need processing in one way or another and sugar is generally a key ingredient.  So is vinegar.  Maybe If I preserve my harvest in the normal way – but then don’t eat it in April.  Is that cheating?  I’d hate for my crops to go to waste.

coffee   Eat Local Challenge

How will Hubby the Un-Gardener survive an entire month without coffee?

There is also a strong push for coffee to be the wildcard ingredient, as Hubby the Un-Gardener likes his coffee.  You should have seen the look on his face when I suggested we make a coffee substitute from dandelion root!  I know you can buy coffee plants, but as it isn’t ideal climatic conditions the yield is said to be a little poor.  Does drinking it because you are growing it make it acceptably local – even if it is not actually your coffee beans?  Or is this a stretch too far?  Or could it fall into the 5%?

dandelion coffee substitute   Eat Local Challenge

I’m sure dandelion will make an adequate coffee substitute for Hubby the Un-Gardener

Part of this challenge allows for 5% for incidentals like salt and pepper and spices.  But how can you tell how much of your diet is 5% before you have actually eaten it.  If we accidentally eat too much of something from out of zone then can we absolve ourselves by eating loads apples from our tree to bring the numbers back into alignment?  Can 95 apples compensate for say one ‘mistaken’ coffee?

carob seedlings   Eat Local Challenge

I’m trying to grow local chocolate-esk carob…

The other concession I guess I should confess about straight up front is chocolate.  I have kids and April has Easter.  Can you just imagine the distress if the Easter Bunny passes us by or offers up something not considered standard Easter Bunny offerings.  I’d have to start saving for some kind of traumatic therapy as childhood dreams are crushed for the sake of my own selfish means.  I feel I can justify this in that I am growing carob trees.  The fact that my trees are still less than 20cm is what is really holding me back from messing with the Easter Bunny’s offerings.  And although I don’t believe there is a local grower of cacao, there is an egg manufacture within 200km and supporting small local business is just as important as sourcing local food.  Is this a good enough excuse to include chocolate?  It’s for the children.

Come again soon – I am about to empty the cupboard of illicit products and go shopping for new and approved local ingredients.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

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18 Comments on “How exactly do you define ‘Local’?

    • Hi Deb. We have decided to make coffee part of the 5%. If I want to drag him through this, then I should really let him have the coffee. Thanks for your support, Cheers Sarah : o )

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  1. Good luck with your challenge. I will watch with interest your progress and I wholeheartedly agree that Easter Bunny should be allowed to stray into your 200km radius and be welcomed 🙂

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    • Hi Elaine. This will be an interesting challenge. It seems eating whole foods and cooking from scratch will be the key as it is mostly the processed food that is the stuff from all over the place. And yes the Easter bunny will swing by on Sunday as he has received clearance to enter the zone.
      Thanks for your support.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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    • Yup – We have decided coffee will be part of the allowed 5% and the easter bunny will visit as usual. This challenge will be very interesting indeed. Cheers Sarah : o )

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  2. I think all of those concessions are fair ones. Undertaking such a challenge too strictly could cause one to quit part way through or binge once it’s passed. But such fair concessions could create a long-term habit wherein you eat this way for good. Surely then these few things aren’t much in the grand scheme.

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    • Hi. I think for this challenge for me – it isn’t about becoming obsessive, but more creating awareness and seeing what a relatively normal family can achieve. I imagine we will find long term change at the end as well as the return of chocolate and bananas.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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  3. This would be an interesting project. In our area we would never have any of the “good” fruits such as bananas or citrus. We would, though, have all the grains, and beef we could handle. Good luck on the endeavor.

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    • Hi Lucinda. We can’t have bananas as ours generally come from The Philippines. I think we are good for wheat although I need to do a bit more research for the other grains. Definitely not rice. We are good for meat too. We won’t really starve. It just seems to be the processed food that is not local and some of the more exotic ingredients like coffee and chocolate. Thanks for your support. Cheers Sarah : o )

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  4. This challenge is taking it to the next level. we always try and eat healthy and local. local in a meaning of our garden and back yard and supporting the local businesses (50km radios). I think we are quiet blessed in the Kaipara, we can source kumara, olive oil, honey, some cheeses, eggs and fruits which we often barter for with our own veggies and meat. there is even coffee (processed locally – not grown here) and chocolate (they try and source some local ingredients for interesting flavours – one of the success is salt that was harvested from the harbour). we not going to take the challenge but it made us think of the actual source of some ingredient. thank you for the info and good luck 🙂

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    • Hi Dina. The great thing about this challenge is seeing just how many great local producers we have making use of great local ingredients. It is definitely the small businesses supporting this and it is good to support them. I did toy with the idea of making salt… Thanks for your support.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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    • Thanks Dina. That is just inside our zone – we should look into that. Sometimes it gets so wet here I joke about growing rice. Maybe I should try it.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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  5. Pingback: Going local, we must be crazy. | Happyzine | Because good news makes a difference

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