Getting Ready for the 250-Mile Diet

ledabeetscrop1.jpgOn August 7th, 2007 I will begin a year of living almost exclusively on foods grown or raised within a 250-mile radius from my home in Brooklyn, NY (yes, I’m granting myself a few exceptions. Stay tuned for a future post with The Rules). I was going to start on Aug. 6th, my birthday, but I have longstanding plans to go out to dinner that night with my friend, Ellen Zachos. Somehow a meal at a Belgian restaurant in Manhattan doesn’t seem like the way to start a year of eating locally, though it should provide an interesting contrast right at the gate.

Local is the new organic according to the press, but to be honest I was into it back when most people thought refusing to eat an out of season tomato was just weird. So this year, inspired by several excellent books written by locavores (including Gary Nabhan’s Coming Home To Eat, Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon’s Plenty), I’ve decided to take my personal enthusiasm for eating locally to the next level.

Why 250 miles? Well, I ruled out the more extreme 100-mile diet that Smith and Mackinnon did because my CSA share comes from a farm that is close to 200 miles away. I am just not willing to abandon farmer Ted Blomgren of Windflower Farms after several years of eating what he grows. I chose 250 because that is the number of miles Nabhan allowed himself during his year of eating locally. Copycat, in other words.

Why I think this will be fun at least most of the time: I love making personal connections to the food that is about to make the most personal of journeys to become part of me. For example, today I had a phone conversation with Don Lewis of Wild Hive Farm about how to bake with his locally grown and milled fresh whole grain flours. There is definitely going to be a learning curve. But hey, I have a miller now, one who is willing to share bread baking tips on the phone. How much more fun is that than a package of flour from the supermarket or even a bag from the bulk bin at the co-op? And I love to cook, so this is not about a year of hardship. I won’t give myself any brownie points for suffering during this year of local food. Quite the opposite! I should make it part of The Rules that my food has to taste good and meet my nutritional needs.

I’ll be sharing recipes, links and tips here, and my hope is that this blog will be a useful resource and inspiration for your own local eating adventures.

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9 responses to “Getting Ready for the 250-Mile Diet”

  1. acmeplant says:

    Leda, this looks great! I need to know more about Don Lewis; I would so love to have a local wheat source. And I’m sorry for making you postpone your year of local eating but I promise it will be worth it!

  2. Miriam says:

    What a very worthwhile project. You’re going to be learning a ton, and I look forward to everything you share about it. How much of your food do you foresee coming from your own garden? And, apart from your CSA box, how can you make sure that food you buy comes from within the 250-mile radius?

    Can’t wait.

    Miriam

  3. ledameredith says:

    Ellen,
    I’ll tell you about the miller over my birthday dinner (which I am totally looking forward to!).

    Miriam,
    My garden is too small to contribute more than the delight of special flavors now and then (some heirloom tomatoes, hot peppers I don’t see elsewhere, etc.). However, it does provide the bulk of the herbs I am drying for winter seasonings. As for how I can make sure the food I buy comes from within my 250-mile radius, all of the stands at the farmers markets here have to say which farm they are from, and occasionally some of the produce at my local food co-op is labeled with the specific farm the food is from. Once I know the name of the farm and where they are, Mapquest tells me if it is within my circle.

    Leda

  4. Well, you just rock. You rock super hard. I’m terribly impressed and pleased. I look forward to reading about your year of local eating. Happy shared birthday in advance!

  5. jenalaflamme says:

    Leda, you wow me as always. Bravo! I am inspired and look forward to participating along with you for as many meals as possible! What a heroine you are.
    Love and support always,
    Jena

  6. Justin Allen says:

    Hi Leda,

    This is a great idea. I am quite taken with the idea of eating locally. One of the best things about it is that local is wherever you are. Take a trip to Mexico and eat locally there. take another trip to Kenya and eat locally there. The options are endless and riveting.

    By the way, you might be interested in reading Bill McKibben’s newest book, DEEP ECONOMY. It is partially about eating locally, but also listening to local radio, buying local newspapers, shopping at locally owned stores. And he is a masterful writer.

    Justin

  7. SaraAnneC says:

    Congratulations, Leda, on a well-thought out and easy to navigate blog… my initial questions were answered in your narrative (HOW could ANYONE go a year without olive oil ????).
    I thought about what this kind of project would mean for me, living in the Midwest/near-South and in many regards it would be quite easy: Plenty of meat, poultry, agricultural products including wheat, corn, soybeans, sorghum (molasses) and there’s even a salt mine in Southern Illinois) — but I do not know if I could give up seafood for a year. Fresh perch, bluegill and crappie are ambrosial (catfish less so, but at least it’s plentiful) but giving up shrimp/crab/clams/calamari/octapus? Heck, I’d be lost without the seaweed …. THAT would take commitment!

    A thought: might you create a way for folks like me to forward your blog to others without having to track down the web address every time?

    SaraAnneC

  8. ledameredith says:

    LOL…the single exotic ingredient that has concerned most people when they heard about the 250 has been olive oil. Obviously, it concerned me, too, which is why I made room for it as a Trade Item in my rules!

    I haven’t yet figured out how to add a plugin to wordpress that would facilitate sharing the blog, but until I do if you subscribe to the RSS feed or bookmark the main page (ledameredith.net/wordpress) at least you won’t have to hunt for the URL.

    Best,
    Leda

  9. raulteesha says:

    FANTASTIC!

    I signed up to get alerts when you update and can’t wait to follow your journey this year! Good choices on the 3 trade items… though, if you can get salt in Maine, will you add a different third? What about vinegar–does that get made somewhere ’round these-thar parts? (I don’t know that I could give up Balsamic…)

    Yay yay! I hereby sacrifice my tummy to you in case you need guinea pigs for new recipes. I know, it’s so generous of me… but hey what are friends for 🙂

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