Firsthand Experience Eating Locally

| January/February 2008

  • local
    After eating a completely local diet for the month of September, Jennifer Kongs knew exactly where to find the makings of a locally sourced Thanksgiving dinner.

  • local

As you browse the aisles of your grocery store, think about this: All those available products traveled an average of 1,500 miles from where you're standing. International trade has invaded the food market so much that apples, oranges and bananas are now a year-long staple in most of our diets. This past September, I decided to switch from the standard 1,500-mile diet to a 100-mile diet. For 30 days, starting September 15, I would not consume any food products?except salt, pepper and yeast?that did not come from within a 100-mile radius of my house in Lawrence, Kan.

This month-long 100-mile challenge started as a project for one of my classes at the University of Kansas, but turned into a much more personal endeavor. Using the Kansas City Food Circle as a jumping-off point, I found many vendors within a 100-mile radius of Lawrence that did not sell at our farmers markets. These vendors and the markets combined to become my new grocery store, one that was strictly seasonal and entirely local.

As an employee at both a local farm (Hoyland Farms) and a community cooperative grocery store (The Merc), I should say I had a head start. I was aware of Alma cheese (about 60 miles away), Iwig dairy (about 25 miles away), plus some sources for local meat and produce. Two of my roommates are also employees on local farms, so we always have a refrigerator full of fresh, locally grown vegetables.

Finding Out What Foods are Local
Before officially starting the diet, my food choices were already based locally. However, I had to replace caffeinated teas with locally grown herbals, and sugar with honey. Sadly I never did find a good replacement for chocolate. Plus, my cooking typically included many spices, such as cinnamon, that I could no longer use because they weren't available locally. By completely eliminating any product not from within 100 miles, I was also subject to the consequences of an unexpected late spring frost, which took out much of our fruit, including fall apples. I did manage, in the second week, to pick table grapes from Davenport Winery (about 10 miles away), a sweet saving grace once washed and stored in the freezer.

My first week was, by far, the most difficult. None of the major grains I consumed daily were available, and even locally baked breads contained ingredients from too far away. My diet was now based on vegetables and animal products. The first Saturday night, after coming home from the farmers market, I started a month-long culinary project that involved creating recipes from scratch. I enjoyed my first dinner of creamy tomato soup with bacon, pinto beans and fresh basil. The pinto beans had been picked from my back yard a few weeks prior by my roommate; the basil was fresh from Hoyland Farms. I happily replaced foreign spices with fresh herbs from the market and our greenhouse at home.

That week also marked the start of late night cooking. Going to school full-time and working multiple jobs, I wasn't left with much time for daytime cooking. This meant I was often up well past midnight, preparing lunch and usually dinner for the next day.

12/2/2013 11:49:43 AM

We just celebrated Thanksgiving with all local foods. Most of it I grew/raised myself but what I didn't was purchased from local farms. We try to eat as locally as possible although there is room for improvement. All of our meat and most of our dairy comes from local farms. I have not eaten a piece of meat from anywhere but a farm in 12 years! I try to make everything from scratch such as crackers, breads, mayo etc but it is time consuming and sometimes I slip. We turned our front yard into a garden and raise chickens for meat and eggs, ducks and turkeys, would like to expand into raising rabbits for meat and milking goats. It's a process that is well worth it, I hope only to keep improving.

6/19/2008 4:51:08 PM

Very interesting article! I am curious if your grocery bill increased, decreased, or stayed the same. I am also curious if your weight increased, decreased, or stayed the same. It would seem by only eating local, you wouldn't consume any processed foods and you might lose weight. I guess that would depend on how much processed foods were consumed before the 30 days of eating locally. I love to grow veggies in the summer and enjoy eating them knowing they traveled all of 20 feet from my garden to my kitchen.


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