Eat locally — it's not too difficult

Last fall I interviewed Sally, a fellow Master Gardener, who decided to take the challenge to eat only locally grown food for a year. At that time, I said I'd talk to her three more times during the year to see how she was making out.

"It's February, and I'm not starving!" says Sally, sporting a big smile. She said she'd learned a lot and had plenty of food but next time would do some things differently. However, she also had made some good decisions.

For example, Sally decided last spring to begin her year-long challenge in October. That gave her time to plan what she would grow and preserve from her garden, to hook up with the local online growers market, Rogue Valley Local Foods, and to make some guidelines for herself.

What Sally didn't grow in her own garden, she purchased at roguevalleylocalfoods.org or directly from local growers. The online market supplies meat, milk, in-season fruit, eggs and cheese, which covers the basics pretty well. And, of course, there are other local year-round sources of many of these foods, too.

Decisions regarding what were "acceptable exceptions" needed to be made, along with a definition of what constitutes "local." Sally decided if it was grown within 100 miles, it was local. But what happens when a family member brings fresh pineapple as a gift from Hawaii? And what about family gatherings, especially at holiday time? Sally decided those exceptions were OK, because family relationships are more important than her personal quest.

Although she drinks only locally-made wine, she decided her tea and coffee must be of free-trade origin. Social situations had to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Sally is not a rude or unfeeling person, so if she was invited to dinner or attended a meeting where she had no choice about the meal being served, she "did the best I could."

What would Sally do differently next time?

"Don't store enough squash for the whole winter," she laughs. "It's available all winter from local sources."

She also froze far too many strawberries. The surplus is now being converted to fruit leather. Next time, she'll grow a winter garden to provide spinach, kale and other greens.

What foods does she miss? Lettuce (she's eating a lot of cole slaw), chocolate, bananas, some non-local herbs, nuts (except walnuts), but most of all, avocados, one of her favorite foods.

Sally says she's learned a lot, especially about researching local foods and reading labels carefully.

But most of all, Sally says, she has the satisfaction of knowing she is helping to lessen our country's dependence on oil. For that I applaud her, and I look forward to our next visit, in the spring.

Coming up: On Saturday, March 5, learn how to prune and otherwise care for your roses from Master Gardener Len Tiernan. His class is from 9 a.m. to noon at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road in Central Point. The cost is $10. Bring gloves, pruners and loppers. Call 541-776-7371 for more information.

Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. E-mail her at diggit1225@gmail.com.

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