Think Globally, Eat Locally | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Think Globally, Eat Locally

Warning: Barbara Kingsolver's nonfiction book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life" (HarperCollins, 2007, $26.95), co-written by her husband and one of her daughters, may inspire you to run screaming out of Kroger and into your closest farmer's market.

In the face of the growing local foods movement, Kingsolver and her family launch the ultimate experiment: Could they feed themselves for an entire year on what they could harvest on their small Virginia farm, supplemented by what others produced others within a close range of their home?

Kingsolver's local food manifesto is timely as organic food becomes an increasingly controversial choice. Large food conglomerates are buying out organic brands. Hain Food Group, for example, owns such brands as Health Valley, Celestial Seasonings, Bearitos and Garden of Eatin'. And who are some of the principal investors in Hain Food Group? ExxonMobil (gasoline, oil spills and global warming); Philip Morris (tobacco); Monsanto (genetically modified foods and hormones); and Lockheed Martin (weapons of mass destruction). What does this mean?

Clearly, as large corporations continue to take control of the organic industry, ethical and safety standards are falling. Free range, for example, does not necessarily mean that the chickens or cows are spending much, if any, of their time in bucolic bliss. And from an environmental perspective, an organic artichoke from California might avoid pollution through pesticides, but it uses a great deal of fossil fuel pollution to arrive at your front door. As Kingsolver's husband, Stephen Hopp, points out, "Americans put almost as much fossil fuel into our refrigerators as our cars."

But that isn't the only thing we should be worried about. For example, Kingsolver points out that only six corporations control 98 percent of seed sales around the world. Some of these companies genetically modify their seeds so that you must buy their expensive fertilizers to make the seeds germinate. These companies also promote growing limited varieties of plants, which is troubling from a biodiversity standpoint.

"In Peru, the original home of potatoes, Andean farmers once grew some four thousand potato varieties, each with its own name, flavor and use, ranging in size from tiny to gigantic and covering the color spectrum from indigo-purple to red, orange, yellow, and white," Kingsolver writes. Yesterday at Kroger, I'm pretty sure I only saw about three different kinds. This kind of uniformity leaves a farmer's whole crop vulnerable to being wiped out by insects or disease.

Taste is also an issue. The tomatoes you find in the supermarket are bred for disease resistance, durability during long-distance travel and uniform appearance rather than flavor. So as corporations take over the seed market, we all suffer.
After a disturbing peek into the dark side of America's food industry, Kingsolver sees consumption of local food as the solution to many of our society's ills. Basically, she concludes that eating locally (and responsibly) grown, heirloom produce and meats improves family relationships, general health and nutrition, gastronomic taste, local economies, environmental quality, and food and energy security.

But although Kingsolver, her husband and her two daughters gamely raise, harvest and preserve much of their own food supply on their farm, it is not practical for many American families to grow more than a few tomato plants on the back patio or some herbs on the windowsill. Fortunately, here in Jackson, there are several farmers markets where you can find your fresh, local, in-season produce to eat or preserve, including the largest one on High Street near the fairgrounds, the original one on the corner of Woodrow Wilson and West, and the Saturday morning Belhaven Market on Fortification Street.

For products that can't be produced locally, such as coffee, tea and chocolate, Kingsolver encourages us to choose fair trade and organic products that promote sound agricultural practices worldwide.

Or experiment with making your own staples. Kingsolver writes that cheese making, for example, is easy and fun. "The whole process—from cold milk to a beautifully braided, impress-your-guests mozzarella on the plate—takes less than an hour," she writes.

Hard cheeses take longer, but they are still very approachable with some milk, pre-packaged bacterial cultures and a cheese thermometer.

Enjoy Kingsolver's garden, her travels, her recipes, her experiments with raising poultry and making cheese, and her unexpected rationale for eating meat. Kingsolver admits that it is virtually impossible to be a local food purist, but even a few small changes in your family's pantry (and on your bookshelf) can make a big difference in the health, security and environmental quality of American life. If you only have time to pick up one book this spring, this should be it.

Previous Comments

ID
118822
Comment

Its amazing, my partner and I have a 20" X 20" plot where we grew tomatoes, okra, squash and peppers - organically of course. We canned most of it and I just want to say, for the uninitiated - it isn't that hard. We could make a batch of jelly or bread & butter pickles on our lunch break and still make it back to the office. Sorry for the tangent there, but the point is, we had canned tomatoes all winter long from our own garden (and pickled okra for our bloody mary's too - what can I say) and they were so much better than what you find at the grocery store. The best part of all, we knew where it came from and what went in it. Its so easy to grow and get this stuff locally - not many people realize it. Heck, I've even planted water melon seeds in a ditch behind our house. Mississippi State has some great info about growing vegetables in Mississippi: -Home Gardening (Organic Vegetables) http://msucares.com/lawn/garden/vegetables/organic/index.html -List of Vegetables that do well in Mississippi http://msucares.com/lawn/garden/vegetables/list/index.html Check out: Basic Information -localharvest.org Local Farmers Markets - The Farmers Market (Woodrow Wilson behind the JSU stadium.) - The Mississippi Farmers Market (High Street near the old Antique Market) - Rainbow Wholefoods (Lakeland in Fondren - you can bet on organic here) -Hixson Farms (Edwards, Mississippi)

Author
Puck
Date
2008-04-22T12:27:35-06:00
ID
118888
Comment

I'm still trying to get up the nerve to stick some lettuce seeds in a pot and see what happens. I know that growing some food myself would definitely save me some dough. When we were kids, my dad had a big garden in the backyard, and we had corn, radishes, cucumbers, greens (I HATED picking those), peas, tomatoes and watermelon (which didn't do very well). I don't want a garden that big, but if I had a few containers with herbs and salad greens, I'd be a happy camper.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-04-23T21:26:01-06:00
ID
118889
Comment

The Man and I just planted a container garden with black eyed peas and some butter beans. They sprouted last week. We are so proud of them. We marvel at the fact that we GREW SOMETHING IN A BOX. Well, HE grew something in a box. I watched and hoped for the best. I'm also hoping to be eating them soon. We had tomatoes...Thems didn't do so well. :(

Author
Lori G
Date
2008-04-23T21:55:52-06:00
ID
118890
Comment

I dare someone to grow avocados.

Author
saint H
Date
2008-04-23T22:03:49-06:00
ID
118891
Comment

With the way food prices are rising, soon, we may all have to grow and/or kill our own food ourselves.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2008-04-23T22:11:08-06:00
ID
118893
Comment

It gets too cold here to grow avocodo trees outside, and it takes about 3 years to start producing fruit. When I was growing up, between my grandparent,aunts and uncles, and our garden, we had about 5 acres of gardens. The growing was the easy part. What I dreaded was the picking,shelling,shucking and helping can all of the veggies and fruits. I itch now, thinking about cutting okra.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2008-04-23T23:03:00-06:00
ID
118894
Comment

"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" inspired me to get some chickens, so now we have two backyard hens. They are a hoot, and lay 8 to 10 eggs a week. I actually need to start giving eggs away since we don't eat as many as they lay. I haven't had as much luck with vegetables since deer and rabbits snap them up. I would need to build a fenced-in garden. Some of y'all might enjoy the book "Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community," by Heather C. Flores. Susan

Author
MissSue
Date
2008-04-24T07:13:58-06:00
ID
118895
Comment

With the way food prices are rising, soon, we may all have to grow and/or kill our own food ourselves. Yep. Does anyone know how to grow rice? It's being rationed as we speak. What I dreaded was the picking,shelling,shucking and helping can all of the veggies and fruits. I itch now, thinking about cutting okra. Mustard greens were my nemesis. It was like poison ivy or something. I also recall finding a huge worm in an ear of corn and a big black beetle on a tomato.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-04-24T07:49:52-06:00
ID
118896
Comment

Sorry to get on a soapbox but the way the USA supports mega-farms and fails to support getting quality food on people's tables is getting my Irish up. People are going hungry in the USA and in the world while American taxpayers subsidize some farmers who earn over $250,000 a year, some farmers who don't farm anything at all, give disaster relief to some farmers who suffered no disaster damage, subsidize some farmers who convert food crops to fuel crops, and give price supports to some farmers at a time when price supports are not needed. Farm supports should be a safety net to protect our food supply, not a way of stashing cash and manipulating markets to benefit a few political supporters. What needs to be done isn't radical. Just reduce the waste in the farm bill and and take some of that money to increase food stamps allotment so that people who need food stamps can eat for an entire month and not just the 3 weeks the current allotment provides. Hungry children don't develop normally and don't learn as well as adequately nourished children do. This is a moral cause that is easy to understand and worth fighting for. To learn more, go to http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04112008/profile.html Call/write your elected representatives and raise a fuss. If you want to be a little more radical - you can also tell them to make biofuels from non-food crops. Give a little support to smaller organic farmers and high quality nutrition producers.

Author
gwilly
Date
2008-04-24T08:24:27-06:00
ID
118897
Comment

That's okay, gwilly. That's good information. When I first heard about ethanol, it sounded like a good idea at the time, but now we have a corn shortage which is affecting the price of corn and meat, something I didn't foresee. I know that diesel cars can be converted to biodiesel and run off french fry grease and stuff like that, but what about gas-powered cars? What can we do?

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-04-24T10:31:14-06:00
ID
118900
Comment

Sam's and Costco are limiting customers to one 25 pound bag. Restaurants are about the only people that buys bags that big. The normal size stuff most people would buy is not being limited or rationed.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2008-04-24T11:37:17-06:00
ID
118901
Comment

Biodiesel does nothing about the cost of fuel, it helps the enviroment but it cost just as much/or more as crude oil base diesel to produce. It still sells for over $3 to $4 at the pump.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2008-04-24T11:42:32-06:00
ID
118902
Comment

A few years back I heard of some guys in Madison Wisconsin collecting old french fry grease for free from restaurants and using it to run their converted diesel car for nothing more then the time it took to pick it up and filter it. I wonder if they can still pick it up for free now? I think biodiesel is a good alternative fuel. But, my greater concern is for people who cannot afford to eat decent food or enough food to be healthy, as well as (the usual) waste and insensitivity at the federal level. It is a public health issue. In places like Haiti, high disease rates are largely due to a poor diet. I bet you dollars to donuts that infectious disease rates will increase in the USA and elsewhere in the next few years because of poor diet if food prices stay high and the economy keeps sputtering. Drugs don't cure hunger.

Author
gwilly
Date
2008-04-24T12:08:05-06:00
ID
118903
Comment

They probably can't get it free anymore, because used cooking oil is used in so many products now, cosmetics,soaps,paint, rubber,and biodiesel. Nobody is going to give away what they can sell.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2008-04-24T12:23:22-06:00
ID
118905
Comment

I just like to mention these guys have a lot of good info about biodiesel. I'm also a fan of the concept of driving people crazy with a vehicle that smells like french fries.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2008-04-24T13:02:46-06:00
ID
118908
Comment

Sam's and Costco are limiting customers to one 25 pound bag. Restaurants are about the only people that buys bags that big. The normal size stuff most people would buy is not being limited or rationed. Thanks, BubbaT. I did find an article that talks about the issue. I'm also a fan of the concept of driving people crazy with a vehicle that smells like french fries. Or doughnuts. Yum.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-04-24T16:15:48-06:00
ID
118913
Comment

L.W.- The only experince I had with growing rice was on a larger scale, but you can make a rice paddie about 15ft x 15ft and harvest about 50 lbs of rice based on the info I can find.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2008-04-24T20:10:37-06:00

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