Today we began our experiment in eating locally. We live in Tucson, Arizona, and have decided to try eating food grown within 100 miles for an indefinite period of time. Our goal is to only eat food grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, added hormones or antibiotics. There are many reasons to do this, and many other websites discuss the benefits and importance of relocalizing our diets (100-Mile Diet is a great place to start). For us, the reasons are numerous and include:

  • We’ve become keenly aware of how energetically inefficient and environmentally destructive our modern lifestyles are, with food production, processing, packaging and distribution being a major factor in this. We are taking gradual steps to reduce our footprint in other aspects of our lives, and are now turning our attention to the food we eat. According to one oft-cited study, the food we eat travels an average of 1,500 miles. Most of this food has been grown using vast quantities of fossil fuels to produce fertilizers and pesticides, to run heavy farm machinery, to produce energy-costly packaging, and to power refrigeration. Unsustainable agricultural practices are contributing greatly to soil erosion and salinization, water and air pollution, habitat destruction, aquifer depletion, and desertification. Reducing food miles and eating “organically” is an important way to reduce the energy usage and environmental impact of food production, although we recognize that eating locally is not always better (we will return to this topic in the future).
  • We believe that the social costs of our globalized food economy and culture are severe. Although this is a very complex issue with no simple solution, we believe that eating locally can begin to address some of the harm done by the disconnect we have from the food we eat and the people who produce it. By getting to know the people who grow our food we gain access to information about the growing conditions, worker rights and environmental sustainability of each farm. The farmers are thereby held more accountable for the ways in which they operate, and we can be much better-informed about the true nature of the food we’re eating. Similarly, by eating local food we face the consequences of irresponsible farming practices more immediately and have more at stake in seeing that farms are run sustainably.
  • Eating locally supports local communities and economies, which is important to our food security in the event of a downturn in the global economy.
  • Food shipped long distances must be preserved or picked well before its prime if it’s to weather the journey. By eating locally we will be eating tastier and more nutritious food.
  • We’ve come to appreciate the native flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert and this provides an incentive for us to explore it more deeply. This region is spectacularly diverse and offers great potential for a unique and vibrant regional cuisine. We hope to be part of a revitalization of native food cultures and are excited to come up with our own culinary creations as well. Southern Arizona may be the birthplace of the chimichanga, but we know that this region has more to offer (and we say this as devout worshippers of the chimichanga).
  • We’ve become lazy and bored with our eating habits, we consume many packaged products (filling our recycling bin far too often), and we feel generally unhealthy and unfulfilled with the anonymous food we typically eat. We want to relearn what eating can really mean.

We will be using this blog to document our experiences and discoveries as we eat locally. We plan to be strict with our diet for the first month, and reassess as we go. In a later post we will discuss our “foodshed” and the few minor exemptions we’re taking. If you are trying something similar in this (or any) region, we’d love to hear from you!

Chris and Marci