Go organic, local grown: almost a thousand words about this picture

I took this picture at the Commonground Country Fair in Unity this past September. It was a perfect photo op. I mean, come on now – vegetables with kid-size head holes on top? A great message bannered above them? Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

(Why do I feel like George from Seinfeld used to awkwardly say that, even though I’m marginally aware he didn’t?)

Going organic and eating locally have been my strong desires for a few years now, and my personal progress is slow. Sure, I’ve educated myself by reading numerous books about how our current American food system is failing us. I’ve picked up on the proliferation of corn in my diet and reduced that a bit. Most of the meat I eat is locally raised and fed an appropriate diet for its species (okay, I’m pretty proud of that one).

But, vegetables? The end-all, be-all monarchs of a healthy diet?

Not well represented on my plate. I may have my own unique and strangely rationalized reasons for skimping out on the vegetables, but they’re obviously excuses.

Like: I don’t want to buy vegetables from my local supermarket because they’re not organic and they were flown or trucked from hundreds (maybe thousands) of miles away.

So I don’t buy vegetables at the supermarket. And the local farm stands have gone off the grid for the winter time, so almost-drive-thru opportunities are out until next summer . My own uncovered garden is not producing anything besides a telltale bump of snow in the wide, white landscape.

To top it all off, my pantry isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with produce I preserved from this past growing season – actually, there’s only about 10 jars of my own food in there and it’s all Sunshine Salsa, made from my abundant supply of yellow tomatoes in the late summer of 2012.

I’m at a loss with the local vegetables, or so it seems on a day-to-day basis. 

However, I have known of a solution for about a year now that I’ve allowed to simmer on the back burner. I don’t know why I haven’t moved forward until now; it’s hard to come up with a full list of the excuses and patterns of resistance I formed around this whole local vegetables thing. I can get really creative with my rationalizations and they usually pacify my guilt on a subconscious level for quite some time before I’m forced by logic to pay attention.

I can’t not eat vegetables. Actually, I can eat vegetables and, if that colorful pyramid or every mom I’ve ever met has anything to say about it, I should.

So what’s the solution? Now that the weirdness of my laziness has been squashed and I’m ready to push forward in 2013 with a healthier eating style, what’s my first step?

Join a buying club – also known as a food cooperative (co-op). There’s an active buying club whose headquarters are in a town about 20 miles out from my home. They are served by nationwide distributors in addition to the relatively hyper-local distributor Crown ‘O Maine.

By participating in this buying club, I will have access to Maine-grown fruit and vegetables, dairy, grains; Maine-raised beef, bork, and chicken; and other tempting local offerings.

As I said, I’ve known about the buying club for about a year now and have failed to join. However, one great thing about growing up and paying attention is realizing that this year is just as good a time to start as any.

So I contacted the individual who runs the buying club for more information. I’ve gone through the available items listing and picked some out for my first purchase. There are a few items on the list that I’d love to buy, but I can’t afford the required minimum purchase of 50 lbs. I do have a couple of friends who have expressed interest in eating more local food, so I’m going to approach them and ask if they’d like to split it with me.

It took me about three minutes to write the email request for more information and twenty minutes to look over the product list.

At the most, I spent 30 minutes taking this first step. I have a feeling it’s a half hour well spent.

I look forward to eyeballing this playful picture without thinking Yeah, yeah, I know I should. Now I’m getting real. I may have been in love with the idea of supporting my own health along with my local economy, community and environment, but unless I expressed my beliefs through action, my words-words-words wouldn’t carry much weight.

Once, in communities not so far back in our history, residents fed themselves and each other, importing necessities and filling the gaps in their household economy with barter and trade. 

Even though currency is used in this modern cooperative, the concept of cultivating our home ground to feed ourselves and our neighbors is still alive. 

If you’d like to read more about buying clubs, I suggest these sites (though I have no affiliation with any of these organizations):

Farm Fresh For Maine | Eat Maine Foods | Local Harvest | What is a food co-op?

Jenna Beaulieu

About Jenna Beaulieu

Jenna is a writer and fine art photographer who recently moved from the Saint John Valley region to the quiet side of Mount Desert Island. She’s a fan of excellent music, homemade gravy, and colored pencils (also, short books and long books, good pens, flannel, and when the June bugs don’t really come out much that year). For more about Jenna and her work, visit her website at www.jennabeaulieu.com