Since last weekend we’ve obtained food from three sources: the Food Conspiracy Co-op (on 4th Ave.), the Tucson CSA, and the Santa Cruz River Farmer’s Market (SCRFM).

At the Co-op we bought alfalfa sprouts, apples, and goat cheese. The sprouts were a tricky decision – the seeds were probably not locally grown, but neither probably are many of the seeds from which our other “local” food derives. We hadn’t had the foresight to set a ground-rule regarding seeds, so we went ahead and got the sprouts. We also have not been worrying about where the animal feed comes from that gets turned into the “local” meat we’re buying. These considerations are another step beyond where we currently are in this experiment, but we plan to address them eventually!

Our CSA share this week included a canary melon, green beans, tomatillos, cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, Guero chiles, bell peppers, and an onion. In addition, they were selling locally-raised organic chickens and eggs, so we bought two of the former and a dozen of the latter. While there we talked with the founder, Philippe Waterinckx, who mentioned that he’s been eating a mostly-100-mile diet for 3 years. We were humbled when he said that he doesn’t add salt to anything. We look forward to talking with him more and learning his secrets about eating locally in Tucson. Thanks, Philippe, for starting the Tucson CSA and leading by example!

Finally, at the SCRFM we got more wheat flour, as well as pears, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatillos (it might seem like we eat a lot of these – it’s because I can’t get enough of them!), lemon basil, an onion, and purslane (a.k.a. verdolagas, a.a.k.a. Portulaca). We also discovered a local beef CSA that was selling some meat there. It’s called Double Check Ranch, and is located near Winkelman (north of Tucson). They offer several different types of CSA shares, including half of a cow ($6.00/lb.), 1/10th of a cow ($7.00/lb.), 1/20th of a cow ($7.50/lb.), and hamburger shares ($5.00/lb.). Their policies seem fantastic; here are some excerpts from their brochure:

“Our cattle are raised humanely and treated respectfully. They live on open range and eat only range and pasture grass. We include no hormones, antibiotics, or animal byproducts in their diets. They live in familiar surroundings and are not stressed by repeated trucking…

“We believe that responsible, small-scale agriculture is a critical, and currently, largely missing key to a responsible economy. Our mission is the production of humane and sustainable beef. We know that managing land well can restore the biodiversity that our landscapes are losing at a frightening rate. We have a biological plan to manage our land holistically, all our decisions are goal driven to ensure that they are socially, economically and environmentally sound. We are dedicated to improving our watershed. We share our ranch with a variety of wildlife: mule deer, javelina, quail, rabbits and rattlesnakes, to name just a few. Coyotes, bobcats, and the occasional mountain lion are an important part of the balance. We feel that this balance is far more important than any economic loss we may incur losing a calf or two to a predator. Therefore, unless an animal is rabid or deviant, we do not control them.”

This sounds like a cattle ranch that we can feel good about supporting! We bought a pound of ground beef and two pounds of round roast on the spot, and plan to purchase one of their CSA shares once we figure out where to put 50 pounds of beef (we may get an efficient chest freezer so that we can take advantage of bulk opportunities like this, if we can make room in our small house). You can find the Double Check Ranch owners at several farmers’ markets in the area (Oro Valley, Oracle, St. Philip’s Plaza, Plaza Palomino, and now Santa Cruz River). They seem like very nice people.

While on the topic of meat, I should mention that we believe meat should be eaten sparingly. Meat production is one of the most environmentally destructive industries on the planet. It is also a major contributor to world hunger, since huge quantities of food that’s edible to humans gets converted into meat, but at a 90% or greater loss in energy. However, Marci and I are by no means vegetarians, and feel that livestock can play important roles in a diversified sustainable food economy. Since we began our local diet we have eaten less meat than we typically do (roughly 50% less, at least), and we would like to reduce this more.