MMM Check-In: A Few Thought On Eating Locally

August 11th, 2009 - filed under: Furthermore » Monday Monthly Mission

For this month’s Monday Mission, we’re each challenging ourselves to take our dietary habits to the next level. That means on every Monday, omnivores will be going vegetarian, vegetarians will be dining vegan, and vegans like me will be eating within a 100-mile radius – going ‘locavore‘.

To be perfectly honest, this is more difficult an endeavor than I’d originally imagined. My neighborhood market and my co-op are awesome at labeling local options – the co-op even indicates where every item is from – and I swear I see that ‘Oregon’ sticker on a lot of what I buy. At least I thought I did! And living here, I have access to all sorts of amazing produce . . . apparently from California. Oh you, sunny southern neighbor, how you taunt me! So close, and yet just far enough away. I’ll admit it: I thought I was more of a locavore than I really am.

Not that it’s some impossible task. Once I got my bearings, I was able to put together a day of eating that’s essentially identical to any other day. It just cost a bit more (no dollar bags today) and took a little more time and foresight (wandering the co-op scanning for the ‘local’ label).


In the end, it was just like any other day. I ate mainly raw until dinner time, as I’m naturally  inclined to do. Breakfast was a tart green apple and a wild blackberry smoothie. I grazed all afternoon on fresh peaches, Bing cherries, and a lovely local trail mix from the co-op (dried persimmons, cherries, and apples, plus almonds, filberts, and pistachios). It’s been a long time since I’ve had a pistachio, mMmm.

Dinner was delicious, an awesome simple stir fry of organic tofu, red bell pepper, fresh string beans, yellow onion, a hot pepper from my own garden, and a bunch of broccoli from my neighbors’. This was all served over a bed of farro grain, which I’ve never cooked before (it was the only local grain available today!), and smothered in Thai peanut sauce from a small Portland company (they are fantastic and [mostly] vegan, you should order from them!). But were the peanuts grown locally? Who knows . . .


Those are the sorts of questions I wrestled with: exactly how far to take this. For example, my ‘wild blackberry’ smoothie also had apples and pears. It was made in Oregon, and this is definitely blackberry, apple, and pear country. But I’m not sure the fruit was sourced locally, just like I’m not sure the peanut sauce ingredients were grown here. I know that my cooking oil, as well as my soy sauce, are not local items. As well, I used a bit of lime juice to top off my stir fry – a decidedly UN-local lime left over from a weekend away. Does that mean I failed? Where is the balance?

As with anything, there’s danger in extremity. I’ll treat my locavore experience like I treated my month of RAW – with my own intuitive rules. I ate 95+% local today, and I think that’s quite an achievement. I really love this Mission, because it’s reminding me how much growing I’ve still got to do. I can always strive to improve this mark I make on the world, and this is a humbling, helpful little lesson.

So, tell me how it went for you. Was your meatless Monday a success? Did you make your first vegan feast? Or did it slip your mind altogether (no worries! who says you can’t do meatless Tuesdays?!!). Let me know how it’s going, guys!


  • Kristie

    I was planning on just a meatless Monday, but ended up going vegan all day, vith very litle change from what I’d normally cook. It felt great!

  • JLC

    I understand what you are going through with buying local. I try to stick with local/organic produce as well. I think we are in the middle of a crop shift. Berries and peaches are making room for pears and apples. We went to a farm near Mt. Hood and all they had left were canning peaches.

    Right now I am trying to buy food that isn’t packaged in plastic. Very hard to do!

  • Julie

    I just found this link: and thought it was pretty cool for people who are only making a short-term commitment or who are struggling with the transition. I know it’s not ideal to eat processed, pre-packaged corporate-branded junk but sometimes we all need a candy bar!

  • Dylan

    Sayward: yay! for talking local. To me this is the most important issue, more than organic, vegetarian or vegan. Although they all really are part of the integral whole of things and there is no need to compare or compete. I think though that local is one of the fuzziest concepts for people. So I would like to make a few points.

    First location is not the first or even second criterion for me in gauging ‘true’ local. All produce/food is grown locally wherever it is grown. The point is the production/marketing/distribution infrastructure that delivers it to your mouth. So for me the most definitive aspect of ‘true’ local is how direct is it from the farmer to you? Your own garden is the most direct. Farm stands/u-pick, farmer’s markets, CSA’s, and farm markets are the next best, and places like your your local food co-op or restaurants that buy directly from farms are great connections also. (I am guessing from your comments about where you live that you shop at probably the best place, at least in Portland, to get truly local food. Unfortunately you are a lucky minority and most of your readers probably do not have the benefit of patronizing a place that truly goes out of it’s way to ensure you the most and the truest local produce available. Many/most places use weak definitions of local to circumvent these issues and still promote themselves as “buying local”.)

    From the first criteria comes the second most important one to me: scale of operation- if you are small scale, you probably care more about your land/surrounding environment, your workers, your community and the quality of your food produced, but most certainly you market as direct as you can. First you cannot afford to compete price wise in the wholesale marketplace, and second they aren’t going to consider your production volume as worth their time.

    If you are large scale, you cannot afford to diddle around with the small volumes that direct retail sales will turn, you need a vast distribution network that can absorb your volume as efficiently as possible so you can focus on managing the size and scope of your operation.

    So, no your peanuts, almonds and pistachios were not grown locally and pretty sure the soybeans that the tofu you ate were also not grown in Oregon (your California roots are showing)!

    However I am not an extremist and believe that these are all personal choices to be determined by our own sense of things. What I do promote is making sure that you are aware of the choices you are making and that you have a good sense of their impact.

    So if you shop at Whole Foods, do so, but do so like a man entering an adult porn shop, knowing viscerally and acutely that you are crossing a line: enjoy the temptation, the titillation, the seduction, let yourself get turned on, but do not think that you are doing the most holistic thing for your health or the most contributing thing for your community, know that the “local” food you buy there is actually undermining your local agricultural community. (on the flip side I support Whole Foods in buying as much local as they can and as directly as they can, being the largest natural food retailer in the nation any small change they do will make a difference and certainly puts them above Fred Meyers or Safeway etc. However the dictates of marketplace competition and the need for market share ensures that they will only go so far.)

    I have been deeply involved in the produce industry for the last thirty years and have much to say on issues of sustainability (vegetarianism, veganism, local and organic) so thank you for letting me put this out there on your site.


  • unlikelyaristotle

    I really enjoy reading your blog – I absolutely adored the home-made deodorant idea: I too hate the thought of all the chemicals we so readily dump on ourselves on a daily basis! I’m gonna make it as soon as I get the chance.

    As for eating locally, never really occurred to me how important it is! The funny thing is, back in my own apartment, I have a local produce market a block away, closer than my usual (super-expensive) supermarket!! It never crossed my mind to even take a look at what’s inside for some reason I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand. That’s gonna change from now on!

  • Kelly

    I LOVE this mission Say!

    I just wanted to share my experience on Saturday. A friend of mine and her husband started their own farm last year (shameless plug: and not only is the farm organic and local, they try to adhere to the principles and methods of biodynamic farming, which I truly respect and adore. I had the pleasure of working with them for seven hours – for my own joy and gratification of supporting their endeavors and because they are friends – and, in exchange, I received onions, chard, dragon tongue beans,jalapenos, several kinds of squash and freshly cut flowers! What fun! I intend to support them in a work-share program next year because they can’t afford to pay anyone (it’s just the two of them farming this land and trying to make a living at the same time working part time jobs!) and it will be a greatly rewarding learning experience for me.

    It doesn’t get any more local than that! :o)

  • Sayward

    @ Kristie – That’s so awesome! Way to step it up a notch, and I’m glad it left you feeling great. =)

    @ JLC – Hmm, maybe that’s why it was so tough. Really, it surprised me how limited my local options were at the co-op. It’s seemed much more ‘available’ in the past.

    No plastic is a really tough one. That’s actually in queue for a Monday Monthly Mission. A question – do you buy in bulk? And if you do, do you use the reusable plastic bags/containers for that, and would you count that as ‘buying in plastic’? I’ve thought about my own feeling on the matter, but I’m curious how others would view it.

    @ Julie – I love that link! I even tweeted it. =) Ans I agree, not ideal, but sometimes your in the middle of nowhere and you just need to know what is ‘safe’ at the convenience store.

    @ Dylan – Thanks so much for that wealth of info. I couldn’t agree more, and you’ve put into words a lot of what I was thinking about. Thanks!

    @ unlikelyaristotle – Thanks, and I’m glad you’re digging the site. You’re lucky to have a local market so close – a lot of people would be jealous! =D I hope you like what you fin, when you check it out. I’m totally reliant on mine!

    @ Kelly – That’s so great Lady! I’d love to do something like that – definitely on my list. And so cool that you have some friends who are following that dream. How inspiring. =)

  • UnknownNeva

    Your post help to inspire our Locavore Contest in Spokane. Thanks! Oh, and I love townhouses too :)

  • Sayward

    @ UnknownNeva – That’s awesome! What a cool contest, good luck to everyone!