When it comes to food, Chenango County has more to offer than people think.
To highlight Chenango’s bounty of locally produced food items – and to encourage people to spend their dollars within the community – Opportunities for Chenango and Cornell Cooperative Extension are putting on an “Eat Local Challenge” Sept. 10-16. Equipped with a handbook and an eat local “passport” to guide them to the numerous products made throughout the county, participants will incorporate as much locally produced food into their daily diets as possible and keep a log charting their experience.
The Evening Sun staff is taking the challenge and will be giving daily updates on their progress in both the print and on-line editions of the paper throughout the week.
I didn’t quite finish the way I intended to. I was hoping to eat completely local 24/7, but kept running into practical setbacks and I think that may have been one of the most important lessons.
It’s not about being totally organic, local or even healthy; it’s about just trying to fit a good thing into your life.
Just picking up a local ingredient to go along with a regular dinner a few times a week would be great, or maybe stopping at a locally supported restaurant instead hitting up Mickey D’s. The simple things.
Obviously, creating a diet of any kind shouldn’t exceed a line of convenience and economics because it’ll only result in too much stress. That line varies for each of us based on our own personal life situation. If you have the motivation to steer yourself in better direction concerning the local community and your own health, there are certainly steps available even to the most restricted of us.
Believe it or not, the solution to your eating desires may be found on a dollar menu – but your bodies requirements aren’t. We’ve become accustomed to fast and easy, but good things rarely are – including our health and the food we eat. So the next time you think you’re saving yourself some time or coin, think about what you might be swapping in exchange for that meager gain.
Another great thing about buying local foods is you have to build dinner yourself and if you’re not careful you might actually end up eating at the table with the family. (Sounds scary I know).
All in all, I think I learned a few things this week and I hope they will stick with me for at least a while. There will always be an excuse not to do anything, but there won’t always be a chance to change it.
“And I’m a bad-boy, cuz I don’t even miss her, and I’m a bad boy, for breaking her heart... And I’m freeeeeeee, reedle da dee, free falliiiiin’.”
Now that Tom Petty’s voice is eternally burned into my skull and the taste of squash into mouth, I can officially say I’ve put more into the “Eat Local” Challenge than I ever expected to. (In case you missed it, I went AWOL Wednesday and ate a feast of non-local heart attack chow at some wonderful grease-pit in Binghamton. I punished myself Thursday by doing two things I despise – eating squash and listening to Tom Petty, a.k.a. “Bob Dylan with a head injury”).
All kidding aside, the week is wrapping up and I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t indeed a challenge. But it’s been worth it, for the meals especially.
Being completely honest, I had forgotten how good fresh food tastes. I don’t mean supermarket fresh, either. Most of that comes from across the country and can hardly be called “fresh.” I’m talking about fresh from the garden, fresh from the farm – you can tell the difference.
But working long hours and being on the run can get you in a fast-food, quick meals rut. And between having no time and being on a tight budget, in my head it makes sense most times to stay there. The challenge has helped me find ways to get out of that rut sometimes – ways that make sense economically and, more importantly, health-wise.
My wallet aside, eating local makes sense economically in other ways as well. When we can buy the products people grow, raise and manufacture here, it keeps our money here, and doesn’t send it to some far off place where taxes are low and business is booming. Spending local is one answer to our economic problems that we can control.
But in reality, while it’s not impossible, eating local 100 percent would be difficult. But what this week has done, hopefully, is show that there are a number of different possibilities to do it more frequently.
Today the eat local challenge draws to a close, but I hope all those participating don’t forget the local food producers and distributors they visited this week.
After examining the week as a whole, I found the program had a lot more benefits than I had originally imagined. In addition to getting some great new food choices, the ‘Eat Local’ challenge introduced me to a lot of extremely friendly local producers who would go out of their way to help. On Wednesday, I met a bunch of people at the farmers market who were selling their goods and all of them were more than eager to help. I was given tips and pointers, and one woman even saw what I had bought and gave me some ideas for what I could make. For the record, nothing like that has ever occurred in the check-out line at the grocery store.
Another unbelievable thing occurred yesterday. As you may have heard, The Evening Sun reporters have all been whining continuously about the fact that we hadn’t gotten any local coffee. Well, that horrific dilemma was solved. Thanks to what I can only assume was some angelic being at Solstice, a bag of local coffee was delivered to the office Thursday, and we have all been happily caffeinated ever since.
So let’s see, we got some great food (even if it did take a little more effort to find it), we met great local people who we were able to support and if more people were to participate, we would require less energy for products to be shipped from one coast to another. I would say the project was a success.