For a few years, I was a restaurant cook in San Francisco, the land of locally grown, sustainably farmed foods. Farmers came to the kitchen door with fresh-picked produce on a weekly basis. Ever since having that close connection to the source of my food, I prefer to shop at the farmer’s market, or at stores that sell locally raised, hormone-free meat, fish and chicken. Obviously, you give up some things when you commit to eating this way, but in spite of what I’ve lost, I’ve found an upside.
The main difficulty I’ve run into with my eating style is the need to plan ahead. For example, I buy eggs at the farmer’s market because they come from small farms, where happy chickens run around outside and eat worms. So, if I’m making pancakes, then I need to take the subway to the market to get my eggs. I can’t just run to the supermarket down the street.
Eating consciously is not only inconvenient, but it also comes with a cost. Any discussion of sustainable eating has to include money. I’ve paid as much as $5.50 for a loaf of bread, $7 for a carton of eggs, and $10 for a small piece of “artisanal” cheese. There are times when I go to the market and I think I have a lot of money, but it’s gone by the time I’ve made a handful of purchases. That hurts.
This food is pricey for a reason, though. Fresh ingredients taste amazing! I recently roasted a pasture-raised chicken, and my husband was so floored by the flavor that he declared it the best he’d ever had. I wish it were my doing, but it was the high quality of the chicken meat. Another good thing about buying from farmers is that I know the people who grow my food. If I want to know whether their food is treated with pesticides, I can ask!
What appeals to me most about shopping locally is that I’m helping the world every time I cook. The money I spend goes back to my community, and helps to save badly needed jobs. When I purchase fish that was pole-caught, my dollars support sustainable fish harvesting. Finally, eating local means saving the resources used to ship and store long-distance foods, and that’s good. You never know, but I’m hoping that the more we talk about sustainable eating, the more people will get access.