After much thought we settled on a core set of rules for our local eating experiment. These rules are as follows:

  • We will eat food grown without added pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, and hormones, whenever possible.
  • We will only eat food grown within 100 miles of Tucson, with a couple of exceptions (see below).
  • If and when we travel we will try to eat foods local to the region we are in, whenever possible.
  • If we are invited to an important work-related activity or special event for a friend we will do our best to bring food from home, but will allow ourselves to eat non-locally if necessary.
  • We will allow ourselves to take non-local medicines or vitamins if necessary for health reasons.

We are allowing ourselves three additional exceptions to the local-only rule:

  • Water: Most, if not all, of Tucson’s tap water comes to us via the Central Arizona Project (CAP), which channels water from the distant Colorado River. We are not yet equipped to harvest potable rainwater off our roof (but plan to do this in the future), so we are allowing ourselves to drink our arguably non-local tap water. Actually, we get our drinking water from Aqua Vita, but we assume that their water comes from the tap.
  • Salt: We debated about this one quite a bit. While the Sea of Cortez is only 140 miles from Tucson, the nearest commercial source of salt we can find is Bahia de Lobos, near Obregon, Sonora (240 miles away). For now we are allowing ourselves to use this brand of sea salt (Sales del Valle), until we can find a better alternative. We do not want to go entirely without salt, as it seems there may be health risks associated with such a low-sodium diet. However, we will treat salt as a precious commodity and use it sparingly. One alternative strategy we plan to explore is to plant a few fourwing saltbushes (Atriplex canescens) in our yard. This is an edible native plant which sequesters salt in its leaves as a strategy to increase water uptake during times of extreme aridity. We will experiment with using saltbush leaves to season our food, instead of salt.
  • Tucson CSA: The Tucson Community Supported Agriculture is a wonderful organization and we love supporting it. Its produce comes from Crooked Sky Farms, which is centered in Phoenix but has fields east of Tucson in Willcox, as well. Most of their fields are within 100 miles of Tucson, but some of them are just outside this radius (the main farm is apparently 110 miles from Tucson). We feel that it is more important for us to support the CSA than to be nitpicky about 10 extra miles, in this case.

We plan to be strict about these rules for the first month, and then think about ways that they might be altered to better achieve our evolving goals. For now our goal is simply to see if we can eat completely locally, but ultimately we hope to focus more explicitly on issues of sustainability (such as minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and water usage, neither of which are necessarily best served by a strict local diet).