Kathryn Rem: Blogger tries again to eat just locally grown foods
Starting Thursday, Wally Hartshorn is going to try to eat mostly locally grown foods . . . again.
It was a year ago when I wrote about Wally, a Springfield, Ill., computer programmer and blogger. He and his family were about to embark on a new and healthier way of living. They were going to try to eat foods that were grown within 100 miles of Springfield.
“It started out pretty good. For the first three months we ate mostly local. I was eating about 80 percent local food,” said Wally, 47, who works for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
The family – which includes 5-year-old Orlando and stay-at-home mom Dawn, a vegetarian – belonged to a community-supported agriculture program, through which they received a weekly box of produce during the growing season.
That was supplemented by a backyard garden started last year. It yielded tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini, green peppers and herbs.
They visited Springfield’s two farmers markets regularly and found other local sources. Their chicken and eggs came from Bear Creek Farm in Palmer. Butter was purchased from Vincent Family Farm in Rochester. Robert’s Seafood Market sold them milk from Kilgus Farmstead in Fairbury.
“The milk was pasteurized but not homogenized. So we would scoop out the milkfat from the top and use that with milk to make homemade ice cream,” Wally said. The family made fresh soups and tomato sauce that went on pizzas. Blueberries, strawberries, corn and other produce were stored in the freezer.
For lunch, Wally brought salads to work. He not only felt better eating locally grown foods, he lost weight.
“When you’re trying to eat local, you’re not eating a lot of junk food,” he said.
The locavore diet worked well. For a while.
“I thought the hard part would be finding local foods. But that wasn’t difficult. The hard part was being organized and finding time to cook. Where we tripped ourselves up was starting to think about dinner at 5 o’clock. At that point you just want to throw a pizza in the oven, not start making a meal from scratch.”
Their consumption of local foods declined. And it took a nosedive in October when their septic system stopped working.
For more than two months, the Hartshorns – who live in Springfield but are not on the city’s sewer system – had no way to dispose of water. So they started washing clothes at a Laundromat and taking fewer showers. They stopped cooking and began eating in restaurants.
“Life caught up with us. Eating out for two months straight undid everything,” Wally said.
Thursday is opening day of the season for the Illinois Products Farmers Market, held on the Illinois State Fairgrounds. It also marks 51 weeks since the family’s first stab at local eating. And it’s the day they will attempt again to become locavores, factoring in knowledge gained from experience.
They plan to spend more time on meal planning and cooking. They are expanding their garden to include potatoes, carrots and peas. They may put in a backyard cold frame, a way to extend the growing season for cool-weather crops. And they got rid of their tiny, 37-year old refrigerator and bought an energy-efficient model with a larger freezer for storage.
Wally will blog about his successes and failures on www.springfieldlocavore.com.
“Part of the reason for doing this is for health. Part of it is to strengthen community ties. When you buy eggs in the supermarket, you don’t know anyone there. But when you buy them from a nearby farm, you get to know the people who raise the chickens. It’s a much more tight-knit community,” Wally said.
“Last year I wanted to be perfect, but now I know the effort doesn’t have to be 100 percent. Do what you can do. If you’re not enjoying it, don’t do it.”
Springfield (Ill.) State Journal-Register food editor Kathryn Rem can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.