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Local or Not
Jun 26, 2014
Eat local. Eat organic. Eat grass fed beef. Eat no beef. Avoid gluten. Cut dairy. Raw is best. There are so many food movements that my head spins trying to keep up with them all. Everywhere you turn you are hit with more conflicting and/or restricting advice. Most movements were originally rooted in legitimate concerns for food safety and healthy living, but I have lost patience with the militant agendas that have evolved from countless organizations.
As someone who relies on agriculture for a living, perhaps I am biased, but I truly believe that the United States has the safest food in the world. Are there occasional slip-ups? Of course. No system is perfect. But when you consider the magnitude and scale of the food that our nation’s farmers produce, we do a damn good job here in South Dakota and all across the country. It isn’t any easy job, but it is a job that most farmers value, respect, and wouldn’t trade for the world.
Recently I have seen a great deal of propaganda for the local food movement, which, in theory, is awesome. Quality is always better when less time is spent shipping produce. However many people don’t have easy access to local food sources. The angry tirades belittling those that don’t make all local choices are a snobbery that I detest.
As a consumer and food enthusiast, I can certainly understand the pursuit of searching out local sources for fresh foods. That tomato picked from my garden or purchased at my local farmer’s market has more flavor than the tomato harvested weeks ago in order to ship to the superstore. That is a no brainer. But if the only tomatoes available are those on the grocery shelves, should I shun them? Ridiculous. Likewise, I can appreciate that the beef my farm family consumes is raised by a neighbor and butchered at a local locker plant. If your resources differ and you do not know that your hamburger was once a cow named Gertrude, do I reject you? No.
Seasonal is a great way to eat in order to take advantage of the freshest ingredients. I anxiously await cantaloupes from an area Hutterite colony and sweet corn sold from the back of a pickup by enterprising farm kids. However, seasons and climates vary greatly across our large nation and affect what is locally grown and available. What if here on the plains of South Dakota I want an avocado, a pineapple, bananas, clementines, lemons and limes, almonds or even quinoa? There are a few lemon trees here and there, and I know a lot of people with an avocado pit suspended by toothpicks in a jar of water on their kitchen windowsill. I heard that Reptile Gardens has bananas in one of their displays that have been sourced by a Rapid City restaurant. (At 250ish miles away, does it fit the “local” guidelines for me?) What if I want something that doesn’t grow in our climate? Am I just out of luck if I am to adhere to a strictly local diet?
I can’t get behind any strict food movement that doesn’t believe in moderation and take into account that our nation’s populations have varying needs, tastes and desires. I am all about moderation and supporting the hard work of all farmers. I want to wake up on a summer morning, toast a slice of hearty, whole grain bread from an area bakery (or simply whatever commercial bread I find at the grocery store), smear it with smashed avocado (from California? Mexico? somewhere else in South America?), pull a few radishes from my garden, (sliced thinly and tossed with a light dressing) and top that avocado toast with a radish salad. A little local, a little not. A really good, simple breakfast, lunch or snack that is all about taking advantage of quality foods that many farmers produce and that I can get behind any time.
Avocado Toast with Radish Salad
(adapted from Martha Stewart Living)
whole grain bread (or whatever kind of bread you prefer)
fresh lemon juice
freshly ground pepper
Toast bread. Mash avocado and spread over toast.
Thinly slice radishes and toss with olive oil, lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange on top of smashed avocado. Sprinkle with lemon zest and additional salt, if desired.
Fran Hill has been blogging about food at On My Plate since October of 2006. She, her husband and their two dogs ranch near Colome.