Our first 10-Day Local Food Challenge comes to an official end today – though any day is a good day for a personal local food challenge.

Everyone’s experience this month counts. Those who did it. Those who started and stopped. Those who meant to but didn’t get around to it.

All of you will get the final survey and we hope all of you will use it to let us know how it went. There is no failure. Only information.

Being a local relational eater in a consumerist world takes courage and commitment. A lot of it. We swim against the tide, and the current is strong. The three sirens of consumerism – comfort, control and convenience – are at play in what and how we eat.

Comfort means we might slide into a romance with sugar, salt and fat, the foods our bodies are designed to crave. We may reject new flavors, new foods and the necessity to cook what comes out of the local ground because change itself is uncomfortable. We may not want to be weirdos – out of step with friends and family.

Control means we do not want to face that food isn’t a product, it’s a relationship with the ups and downs of seasons and the climate and that farmers aren’t factory workers, they work hard to supply us with food, often against many odds. The industrial system gives us the illusion of control, but it depends heavily on a diminishing supply of fossil fuel and clockwork supply chains. What looks solid because grocery stores are always stocked is actually fluid and subject to disruption.

Convenience means we are now accustomed to 24/7 grocery stores and pre-cooked foods and claim we are too busy to plan shopping trips and menus and cook in batches from scratch and the other simple skills of now by-gone home-makers (men and women).

How we are going to draw people out of that trance and into what we know as real nourishment is a grand puzzle.

All of us receiving this newsletter are engaged in some way or another in that puzzle – both in changing ourselves and changing the systems that feed us.

The survey will bring these challenges and strategies into sharper focus. Please, when you get the survey, do it. We will probably hound you because your experience is all we have to go on to make an honest assessment of making a local food shift.

Scroll down to read stories from this week on the Facebook group and blog. We’re refining the survey tool now to harvest what we’ve learned; what questions do you want to ask the challengers?

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Report from Vicki on Terra Madre

I just spent a week at the bi-annual Slow Food Conference called Terra Madre coupled with the Salone de Gusto, a bodacious 4-trade-show-halls worth of food tasting from every region of Italy and the world.

Slow Food is the big tent – or barn – that includes most of what local eaters care about. Good food. Shared with friends. Grown in the soils of your region. Tended with care. Cooked with love. Good, clean fair food. It’s what I came to call “relational eating.”

Because I was in the Piedmont region, I gave myself an extra day to go to Alba to eat white truffles and drink barolo wine. It occurred to me that I was doing a perfect 100 mile day. A friend told me that when he went to the annual cheese fair in the neighboring town of Bra, he asked the man at the stall with his favorite cheese about a photo tacked to the back of the booth. It was of an older man with a hand on the shoulder of a boy. “You and your son?” “No, my father and me. Taken right here.”

Local eating comes naturally for people rooted in a place. My experience at Terra Madre and with the 10-Day Local Food Challenge underscores what I learned 4 years ago doing my 10-mile diet: eating is an act of belonging, not just an act of consumption.

Local food isn’t just another product, it’s how you participate in the life and vitality of your place on earth.

Local food compared to anywhere food is, pardon the expression, apples and oranges.

Comfort, control and convenience apples from the 24/7 grocery store can hit the spot, but missing are the hundreds of distinct tastes of heritage apples and the security of knowing that if you care for the trees around you, they will feed you for your whole life and the empowerment of being a co-producer, an actor in your food system. We could also point out that the skins of those anywhere apples are bred to be thick to resist bruising, not to be tasty. And those apples are likely sprayed. And not fresh picked. They are missing the nourishment of context. Of belonging. Of being a living being in a living world, sharing food.

The consumerist mind doesn’t give a hoot about all this really. The Slow Food movement has been working for decades to awaken people to the pleasures of the table and the importance of the thousands of varietals of foods to our humanity.

I’m getting on the Slow Food bandwagon. You can too. Join.

What Challengers are learning

Maghan Kasper Andruscavage
I learned to be polite around friends and fam, but having this local challenge gives us a “thing to talk about” with friends. The specifics involved raises the awareness of everyone we talk to, which is awesome.

Jean Wright
One important finding: how long I could eat from what is on hand before going to market. Still eating. But will now go to pick up staples. How much GHG reduction by not making regular trips to market and eating locally? What if we added in that component for all of us? It would be substantial.

Laurie Pitts
Although I’ve completed my official challenge, when my 10 days ended, I resolved to make certain that at least one meal per winter day would feature local fare. So far, so delicious.

Maghan Kasper Andruscavage
I will only buy local milk and yogurt. Because its sooooo easy!! And I know I can commit year round.

Jan Deligans
I finished my 10 day challenge now about 5 days ago and am starting to evaluate what changed. A lot! … Some items I just hadn’t taken that step to start actually buying and using them even though I thought I should. Like goat’s milk. …for the challenge I bought and used the goat’s milk, yogurt and cheese. And now that I broke the ice so to speak I will definitely continue doing so. They taste great and I know are healthier for me and the planet. And it’s supporting the education of young people into holistic and organic life and food. So that change will be permanent. And I’ll continue to become more aware of the need to go ahead and act on things that I know are right and need to change in my life.