Monday, 6 September 2010

Embracing your bioregion

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

There are so many buzz words out there today in the simple green movement, some are fitting, and some are well, just buzz words. Sustainable, local, locavore, green, and the list goes on. But many times the words are just words or marketing tools. In our all out quest to save the world from everything we are losing sight of what really matters. Do my neighbor's hot house tomatoes in May qualify for local? Well yes they are local, they don't travel great distances to get here, but the huge energy costs to get tomatoes ripe here in the cool, cloudy Pacific Northwest make them not such a good choice if the buyer wants to lessen their energy impact. Another neighbor keeps a heated greenhouse also, where she grows citrus fruits. She fusses, and worries and gets her fresh citrus a few here and few there, but mostly she complains about heating the greenhouse and the keeping the plants happy, then she sends her hubby to the store for lemons so she can make marmalade. Her citrus is local, and zero-mile but the energy expenditure is huge, and she is frustrated most of the time because of her personal energy is drained also. My personal path down this road was raising chickens for sale à la Polyface , every bit of grain we fed with the exception of oats was shipped in from long distances. Not exactly an environmentally sound enterprise for our farm. Not to say we couldn't have sold scads of poultry and eggs raised this way - just that we didn't really feel comfortable after awhile having our so many of our eggs in one basket, so to speak. It wouldn't have taken much of a hiccup in the transportation system to cause us a lot of problems and heartache.

We have been told for so long as consumers that the world is our oyster, and we can have anything we want food-wise any time of the year. We all want to be so distinctive but really we are all so alike. These days you could take any grocery store produce department and plunk it down anywhere and it would look the same as one in a totally different region. With a modern transportation system at our beck and call, we have out-of-season fruits and vegetables year round in every town. And I won't even touch the processed food debate in this post with a ten foot pole. It's no wonder people don't know where their food comes from. Because it comes from the store! And they're all the same for the most part in every part of the country.

There is no celebration of heritage foods, or bioregional foods. And now it trickles down to farming and gardening. I love sweet potatoes but growing them is a crap shoot at best in my location. They belong in the South, same with peanuts or a myriad of other local, regional food stuffs. Farmers and gardeners love a challenge, the self-reliant gene that makes us want to try to grow everything, and the confidence that we can, makes it a little hard to swallow when we fail. When everyone celebrates with someone else's heritage and local food, it is no longer local, and then becomes scarce. The Pacific Northwest is famous for its salmon runs, which are scant at best now. When you have doctors telling you to eat salmon for it's health benefits and everyone jumps on the fishing boat the salmon in is big trouble. Of course, we always think we can outsmart and do an end run around these types of problems. No salmon, well, we will farm them. No chicken feed grown locally, well, we'll plow up the back 40 and plant some. No limes for the margarita, we'll just get us a citrus tree and an atrium and sit back and sip away. I am not trying to point fingers really, since this type of thinking is hard to get away from. If I run into a road block on some type of idea or project, I always try to think of ways to duplicate at home what I have purchased somewhere else. It's a hard mindset to quell - I got a start the other day when I saw a recipe requests for homemade gummy worms, and chocolate syrup, and this was on a healthy food/farming forum that I read.

I have been trying to embrace our local foodshed more, but I have quite a ways to go on this one. First I have stopped trying to grow many vegetables that are really just marginal in my climate. Ok, sure I will grow peppers and tomatoes in a hoophouse, but I will not heat the hoophouse. And I am justifying that hoophouse in my mind by using it as a season extender... Baby steps. A biggie is maple syrup, I like just a dab on my breakfast sausage, you know, the salt/sweet thing, but really just a hint of homegrown, homemade applesauce has been just as enjoyable with my breakfast and satisfies my sweet tooth. Maple syrup will have to be a treat from now on. It doesn't seem like much, these changes I have made, but I hope they will add up over time.

Have you found yourself rediscovering your heritage foodshed as well?