Today we have conveniences that are almost ridiculous. Pineapples in November? Strawberries all year round? Is that really necessary? More importantly, is that healthy?
A couple thoughts about Eating Locally
I heard a story once that I’ve had trouble confirming. I’m pretty sure it’s true, but let’s just call it an allegory:
Once in a mountainous Eastern European village, people looked forward to the three weeks per year that a delicious edible mushroom would grow. They ate these mushrooms with glee until their poop smelled weird and then had a party when the last few remained. One year, a very smart young man figured out how to grow the mushrooms all year round in a greenhouse-type contraption. The village rejoiced and got their palates prepared for the joy of having this food every day! After three months of the extended mushroom season, people started getting sick with nausea, diarrhea, horrible skin rashes and splitting headaches. But those few who didn’t like the mushrooms were just fine. The Mayor banned mushrooms as an experiment and every villager but the Santorum Family recovered. Eventually the Santorums, who weren’t very smart, admitted they’d hoarded mushrooms and had been eating them despite the ban. MORAL: Enjoy special foods when Nature serves them to you. You’re a guest and guests shouldn’t set the rules.
Money-wise it’s smart to buy local food. If you spend your money in the town or city in which you live, that money might stay there and get filtered around to make your life even better. (If it goes off to another city or into the bank account of a huge company, what are you getting in return?) And if that money goes directly to a farmer at a farmer’s market or a place like The Store, you’re basically investing in more local food for later that season and/or next year. And, when there are programs like Project Grows and the VSDB Educational Farm, kids and helpful organizations can keep doing the good work they do.
And what about eating hyper-locally? From your back yard! Nutrients in veggies degrade over time so foods that are shipped over from New Zealand will have fewer nutrients than those from California (if you live on the East Coast), which will have fewer nutrients than foods from your local farmer… but food from your back yard reigns supreme.
PLUS, there are the mental health aspects!
- It’s hard to argue that putting a seed in the soil and watching it grow is the kind of magic that only Harry Potter can match. It’s straight up magic. How does it work? Tiny seed turns into lettuce! Tinier seed turns into spinach? If you’re patient, exquisitely vulnerable and admirably tenacious sprout turns into a cherry tree! Talk about a way to foster gratitude and make yourself healthier!
- The mere act of putting your hands in your dirt is like taking a chill pill. Mycobacterium vaccae, a type of bacteria that lives in compost, “acts like a mind-altering drug once it enters the human body, functioning like antidepressant pills to boost your mood“. It does this by producing serotonin!
- Could this be related to findings that psychiatric problems are more common in urban than rural communities? So, if you live in an rural area, be sure to leave a little room in your garden for your hands and feet to be stuck in the medicine once a day!
- Growing your own food is EMPOWERING and helps conjure a feeling of control and self-sufficiency. It’s well known that a sense of control can mitigate the effects of stress. For example, if two people have the exact triggers of stress, like having to work three jobs or live in a war-torn country, the mental effects will be less severe if they have a slight feeling of control (even if we never have control over anything but our thoughts).