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Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Week 3
In continuing our discussion of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I want to turn to the obstacles that often stand in the way of our choosing to eat sustainably. While it can be easy to read about how other people switched to organic or local food habits, making that transition in our own lives can prove to be a challenge. I have not fully made that transition, but I have learned to do what I can. What I discovered along the way were that there are a number of common obstacles (or excuses depending how one looks at it) that I had to overcome. These included -

1. Information - I had to discover what was good to eat and where I could find it.
2. Cost - I had to adjust how and what I ate in order to pay the full price of the food I was eating.
3. Time - I had to be willing to sacrifice convenience in order to grow, make, and eat sustainably.

In reading Kingsolver's account, the time issue seemed to be the most all consuming factor. Not everyone can grow all of their own food. But they did discover that by putting their own effort into the process they saved significant amounts of money over the course of the year. For them it was all about developing a different perspective and making it work.

What obstacles stand in your way? Are they too big to overcome? What has helped you overcome them?

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posted by Julie at 5:44 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 5/21/2008 06:34:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    My biggest obstacle to growing my own food is that, given that I live in a small apartment, I don't have a yard. I don't even have a porch or balcony on which to put a few potted plants. :)

    I have seriously been thinking about growing some herbs on my windowsill, though.

  • At 5/21/2008 08:15:00 PM, Blogger heather weber

    The questions you present Julie are ones I wrestle through almost daily. Not only am I aware of the value of eating locally and organically, but I am also attempting to consume mostly a raw diet. Honestly, my biggest obstacle to eating completely locally is that there's not enough growing in Iowa all year round. What I need to do is prepare in advance for the winter--buy extra produce from the local farmer's market and freeze it, for instance; dry excesses of tomatoes in my food processor; etc etc. That is one thing I can do, but will I be able to do enough prep work? I do have a garden, a small one, and that will make a dent in winter's needs. However I don't have the time or money in the present to fully fund a winter pantry/freezer in advance. So cost and time are big factors.

    Another obstacle, to be honest, is there are things I love to eat that do not grow locally during any time of year--coconuts, bananas, and avocoados for instance. Those are foods I can eat raw that provide a great source of fats and versatility in many recipes I make. I am conscious of the cost of getting these products to Iowa, so I don't buy them mindlessly anymore, although I can't claim to be principled enough to abstain from buying them altogether.

    As the costs of food and fuel are going up, our family budget is seeming to get tighter and tighter, to the point that I am basically just not wanting to go into debt to buy food. But that often means breaking from some of my food values--organic, local, raw, vegetarian--in order to feed the hungry tummies in my family.

    I'm not living a perfect, principled picture, by any means. But I am struggling with all the variables, trying to do my best for my family and the community and the world beyond.

  • At 5/21/2008 08:45:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    I feel like for me both convenience and inertia are the biggest obstacles. I did some research on CSAs in my area -- no luck. The only one really local just closed. Most of the Farmer's Markets don't do organic and are not in my line of travel anyway, but I live very close to Trader Joes, which makes it easy to get affordable organic (but not usually local) produce.

    I have a long way to go on this one.

  • At 5/22/2008 09:23:00 AM, Blogger Janice

    Time is my biggest issue. As a single parent and full time employee (with a 40 min.-one-way-commute) my time is tight. So organization is one thing that is helping me.

    To get down to the nitty gritty, one thing that has helped me as I gather information, is to create a binder to put it all in. Then I transferred some of it to the calendar - which local farmer's markets are open on which days. I have used a lot of online resources which are listed on my blog and I find that networking has helped. (I've answered emails from people who have read on my blog and been able to provide them information and in turn they have given me new information.)

    Another issue for me is as someone else posted, there are foods I really like. Saying 'no' to myself (and my family) is an honest struggle. I don't want to get legalistic about it, I just want us to be more aware of what we're doing and make some changes.

    Because local meat is more expensive than what I normally purchase, I am slowly switching us over to eating meat only 3-4 days a week. I have purchased equipment to make my own cheese and will be able to use local milk for that.

    We are planting a small garden this year in a corner of our yard but I'm afraid the deer and rabbits will get most of our crop. Plus, gardening is time consuming.

    I am interested in hearing how people are defining 'local'. What are your parameters? Coastal? A certain mile radius? And what non-local items are you keeping on your menu?


  • At 5/22/2008 02:13:00 PM, Anonymous TopVeg

    Growing herbs and salad leaves in pots is so easy. Start with one pot & within a few years you will have the bug & possess a garden of pots!

  • At 5/23/2008 07:59:00 AM, Blogger mel

    Our biggest obstacles are cost (there isn't much wiggle-room in our poverty-level income) and availability.

    I have the same problem as Heather, although perhaps more so, since I live in a part of Canada where winter (full snow cover) lasted five months this year. Food just doesn't grow all year, and I haven't yet been able to put out the upfront costs of buying a freezer, etc. to preserve food.

    This year I am attempting a garden, although we live downtown and don't have much room (or full sun)... we'll see how that works out!

    We are lucky, though, to have a local farmer's market that supplies many organic or eco-sustainable foods. And I was able to get into an organic CSA this year, which is very exciting. Both of these are supplied by farmers within 100 km.

    I do think your point about doing what you can is important, Julie. If we're honest with ourselves, probably we all can do at least a little better than we are, but perfection doesn't have to be the goal.


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