Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Local Bite Challenge

Over on Ever Growing Farm there's a 100-day Local Bite Challenge. It’s an experiment to see how much local food a person can live on within certain parameters (e.g., distance, budget).

The creator of the challenge (Melissa) is doing the Local Bite Challenge for 100 days. Her goal is to purchase items within 100 miles of her home and spend no more than $100 per week. She acknowledges that there can and will be exceptions to the challenge - things that people are unable to source locally and/or don't feel that they want to give up.

Also, anything that is already in one's pantry can be used. The goal isn't to create food waste by tossing what's in one's cupboards and refrigerator into the garbage.

After reading about the Local Bite Challenge, I thought it would be something worthwhile to undertake. It comes on the heels of the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge that I've been doing since March 5th. In that challenge, I have let go of possessions that I no longer need or want.

Much in that same spirit, the Local Bite Challenge is letting go of unhealthy eating habits and beginning some new ways to view and prepare local food.

Organic milk from Autumnwood Farm.

 So, for our family, I've decided that our goals for the Local Bite Challenge are to:
=> Do the challenge for at least 100 days. (Hopefully by that time it will become a new way of eating and living, and we will continue on indefinitely.)
=> Replace items that I'm using up with those that are grown or produced within 100 miles of our home. (Since we live almost on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin, the mileage is more applicable than saying that we want to use food only grown in Minnesota.)
=> Spend no more than $75 a week while I'm replacing food; and $100 a week during the growing season (May through September).
=> Learn to use and prepare at least 80% of the 40 items on the produce available from May-November list.
=> Plant a garden with some of our family's most regularly-used and enjoyed items (e.g., tomatoes, peppers, onions, beans, carrots, herbs).

Exceptions for our family include:
=> Food that is already in the home.
=> Staples (e.g., spices, salt, pepper, sugar, oils, vinegars).
=> Miracle Whip (not the healthiest...but I haven't yet parted ways with this product).
=> Hot chocolate with marshmallows.

In addition to the overall challenge, there are mini-challenges that are announced each Monday. This week's challenge is to pick one new-to-you, locally grown item from the local co-op, farmers market, road-side stand, or u-pick farm and enjoy it however you see fit.

Breakfast with locally-produced items: eggs with cheese, cheese curds, 
elk sausage, and chocolate milk.

The new item my family and I are trying this week is elk sausage (also available at the organic dairy farm). It's from a place that also is about 50 minutes from my home to the southwest. The package says the meat is "All natural, gluten free, no MSG, no hormones, steroids, or chemicals."

One of the things that I've enjoyed about the Local Bite Challenge is that I've been reading some interesting links that have been shared on the Facebook page.

For example, there was one that listed the 10 best and worst states to eat local. The link led back to Strolling of the Heifers which has a chart that details each state's ranking.

Minnesota ranks #13. Its rating has improved over the past couple of years. Last year it was #16, and the year before that it was #17. So, it's headed in the right direction.

The list was based on four factors per state:

• Number of farmers markets.

• Number of CSAs.

• Number of food hubs (e.g., “facilities that handle the aggregation, distribution and marketing of foods from a group of farms and food producers in a region”).

• Percentage of school districts with farm-to-school programs.

Strolling of the Heifers also listed its top ten reasons why it is good to eat locally. Out of their ten reasons, there are five that resonate with me and motivate me to eat locally.

Eating locally:

Supports local farms: Buying food locally keeps local farms healthy and creates jobs at these farms as well as in the local food processing and distribution systems.

Less travel: Local food travels significantly less distance to consumers than processed or fresh grocery store foods, therefore using less fuel and generating fewer greenhouse gases.

More freshness: Local food is fresher, tastes better, and is healthier since it spends less time in transit from farm to consumer. Therefore, fewer nutrients are lost and there is less spoilage.

New and better flavors: By purchasing local food, consumers discover new vegetables and fruits; new ways to prepare food; and promotes a greater  appreciation of the pleasure of each season’s foods.

Preserves open space: Buying local food helps local farms thrive and survive; and keeps land from being developed into suburban sprawl.

So what have I done so far? The first step was cleaning out seven cupboards in the kitchen. After cleaning and organizing the remaining items, I know what I have on hand and what needs to be purchased.

I believe that the food we have on hand will last us until the farmers markets open for the season (the middle of May) and have limited produce. Until then, the options are limited for both the challenge and mini-challenge. Being that there's still snow on the ground in some areas in Minnesota, and more is forecasted for three days later this week, there are significantly fewer places to purchase local food than there will be in a month.

However, yesterday I went to Autumnwood Farm in Forest Lake, Minnesota. There is a small store on the farm that sells milk from their pastured cows. The all-natural, low-temperature pasteurized milk is from cows who have benefited from rotational grazing and carefully-managed nutrition. The cows never receive growth hormone (rBST); and every measure is taken to ensure that Autumnwood milk is free of any antibiotics.

This dairy farm purchases cheese products from another dairy cooperative that's about 50 minutes northeast from my home. So, I also bought cheese curds and smoked colby cheese.

Items from Autumnwood Farm's shop: eggs, cheese curds, 
cheddar cheese, and elk sausage.
The shop has a variety of locally-grown/produced items from
other farms within 50 minutes of the farm.

Between the organic skim milk and chocolate milk in glass bottles; cheese curds; smoked colby cheese; and elk sausage - I like the changes that are taking place in the refrigerator. I am so happy I'm doing this challenge, and am excited to see the changes that we will make together as a family during the next 100 days.

1 comment:

Rita said...

Congrats! That is a really cool challenge. Will be easier once the farmers markets open up, too.

Dagan and Leah joined one of those farm co-ops for the summer where you get a box of whatever they have every week, I think it is. They said they'd share with me if they have too much of something. (And especially if it is something they don't like--LOL!) So I may have to be finding recipes for new foods, too, this growing season. ;)