Saturday, May 25, 2013

Does Location Determine Eating Habits?

I am absolutely blown away by how productive my little raised bed garden is so far.  Since the kids helped (over)plant tons of greens, yesterday it was my mission to clear out a little of the bounty.  You know, so the other plants could actually get a little sunlight!  I headed to the garden, pulled a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and left with the garden looking barely touched.  

And I harvested a huge basket of green abundance:

You may have heard me mention before (like 10 or 15 times...) how easy it is to grow things here in Oregon.  If you will, compare the above basket of overflowing greens with the puny radishes below:  

Those radishes, plus about 4 little lettuce leaves, were my harvest in Colorado.  All of it.  For a whole year.  They represented hours of building, hauling soil, and watering.  And I was so, so proud of them!  My harvest the year before consisted of three carrots about as large as my pinky.

So what made the difference?  Yes, I learned a lot in the intervening years about soil, deer, water, etc.  But for me, the biggest difference was just location.  Even knowing all that I know today, the thought of trying to garden at 9000 ft. in the Rockies if we ever move back fills me with absolute dread.  To use my best Old English, I have seen the goodness of this land, and I am loth to depart from it.

The amazing fertility of this area makes it so much easier to find local food to make up a high quality diet.  Grass-fed cows roam every hillside, wild salmon teem in the river (and peoples' freezers), half my friends keep chickens for eggs, and I can get pastured poultry from the little town where we go to the library.  It is just SO easy to eat well here, and it was SO much harder in the area where we used to live.  

When we were first getting started in our real food journey and discovering things like grass-fed meats, raw milk, and locally grown produce, I was often so overwhelmed and discouraged by how hard it was for me to find the things I wanted to be able to eat!  Raw milk meant a 2-hour drive every week, the only grass-fed poultry I could find was 150 miles away, and even our local farmer's market had to import produce and pastured meat from over a hundred miles away.  There was no local cheese, no local butter, no delicious local bacon to be had in grocery stores.  I don't think I ever saw a cow laying down contentedly on a hillside in my area...the few I saw were always roaming voraciously, trying to find enough growing stuff to stay alive! 

I remember reading other peoples' experiences of buying all their quality animal products in one place at a cute little local farm, or finding amazing produce at roadside stands in the summer, and I felt like the odds were stacked against me because of my location!  I even once, in frustration, asked a blogger how I could be "expected" to eat anything but grocery store meat without spending a fortune, and was basically told, "thousands of families are making it work, surely you can too, if you just try a little harder."  

Okay, I may be writing this to let off long-suppressed frustration (hey, you are the one still reading this, don't blame me...), but also to remind others in the real food community that just because they live in a place where real food is easy to come by, does not mean it is just as easy for everyone!  

When you get all wrapped up in and sold on this real food thing, it's sometimes easy to think, "Once you know that it'll make you feel so much better, why in the world wouldn't you eat well?  What could be holding you back?"  My frustrated voice is calling from 2 years ago, saying, "Keep encouraging me!  Don't judge me!  It's frickin' hard to find good food where I live!"

If you are frustrated by the local food situation where you are, I so understand, and I encourage you to keep seeking, keep asking store owners to stock good things, and keep instigating positive change in your community!  Or just move to Oregon.  

What is the food environment like where you live?  Are you ever frustrated because you can't access the things you'd like to be able to eat?  Or are there a lot of like-minded real food eaters in your community?  What can people stuck in relative "food deserts" do to find what they need?


  1. I hear you! I have gotten a few itty bitty radishes and a handful of lettuce from my garden so far this year... granted, I'm not very good at actually putting effort into the garden. =] The closest raw milk I've been able to find is an hour away, and Oklahoma isn't at all the worst place to find local stuff!

  2. Yay, I love it when a real-life friend visits the blog! :) I can't believe how much easier it is in Oregon...I think I may be getting spoiled. Good luck with your garden! It's a little harder to put a ton of effort into it with a teeny-tiny newbie in the family!

  3. Great post and so true! I live in Southern California and my garden is rocking already even though it's only May, yet my sister is just setting out her plants in Colorado. We also have access to great local produce and meats at the farmer's market, year round. Whereas my family in the mid-west isn't nearly so lucky. It's more expensive to eat local around here, but definitely not inconvenient.

    1. It seems like a trade-off between cost and convenience sometimes, doesn't it? It's awesome to be in a great food-growing location!

  4. Oh yes, very frustrated here! The part of Nebraska I live in is a total real food desert. I go to places like and and look at the map of my state with all of the little flags showing "local" producers, and there is a huge blank circle where I'm at. It's hilarious. If I lived 150 miles east, west, north, or south of where I live, I'd be in real food heaven. Moving isn't a possibility though, so I've had to stop fighting a lot of battles on this front.

    1. Oh no, Betsy, that's so discouraging! So what to do you do to try to eat as well as possible?


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