Thursday, June 21, 2007

Becoming a Locavore

Well, I'm doing my best to become a "locavore"; that is, I'm making an effort to eat only foods grown or harvested within a 100 mile radius of where I live. That means eating seasonally or canning for off-season, not indulging in some foods that Michigan/Indiana/Illinois soil does not provide (such as peanuts, olives and more), but mostly, it means enjoying every bit of food that goes in my mouth. Why is it so much more enjoyable? Here's the short list:
  • Good for the Earth: my food is not "made of fossil fuels", as in, they do not travel far to get to my plate. Also, because it does not have to travel as far, the farmers I get food from are using natural and/or organic processes: veggies from the CSA I joined are harvested the day I pick them up (or I harvest them myself) and the meat I eat is either picked up fresh the day it is processed, or frozen fresh for later.
  • Good for Me: I have had seasonal allergies for a long time. Eating food grown in our local foodshed means I'm essentially "self-immunizing" by putting some of the local pollens and allergens directly into my body - honey is especially good (perhaps Heather can shed more light on this aspect!).

    Also, I was one of those kids raised on processed foods, then college cafeteria food (yuck!). My mother thought corn and potatoes were vegetables and that meatloaf was a staple. Organic...what?!? We did grow our own tomatoes in the summer and boy were they good! I could eat them like apples. Anyway, I digress. What I mean to say is this is also an attempt at becoming healthier and retrain my body to LOVE food that will nourish it and keep it in balance.
  • Good for You: By supporting local farmers and growers, my [limited] funds are supporting the local economy, keeping jobs in MI and thereby making our community stronger (we don't want more people leaving Michigan because "the economy is bad" - how many times do you hear that a day!)

So, I want to say "if I can do it, anybody can" because I was certainly not geared for this my whole life, but am excited by the challenge that it presents in my daily life. Looking through recipe books is now more fun than ever! So, I challenge you all to join me in becoming a locavore. Peace, Mandy Creighton

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Co-op as Community

This morning as my kids and I walked through the farmer's market, we chatted with several different friends who we ran into while we each gathered local produce and plants. I was reminded of how much our farmer's market has become a part of the local community structure during the months that it is open.

A few months ago, I read the following description of author Cecile Andrews' local grocery store that she wrote about in The Circle of Simplicity. It's the role that I hope the Grassroots Community Co-op will fill some day in our community on a daily basis.

"For many years we've lived in a neighborhood that has a little grocery store. It's a part of a larger co-op system, so it has lots of organic foods and bulk items. You know all the checkers by name and sometimes they even help coordinate your shopping. It was not unusual for my husband to stop by the store right after I had been there. The checker would tell him, "Oh, Cecile already got that." Or if I was in the store when Paul came in, they would get on the loudspeaker and announce, "Cecile, Paul's here in the store."

And you can walk to a neighborhood store. When you walk, you not only get exercise, save on pollution and car expenses, you also get to visit with neighbors along the way. Having a neighborhood store certainly improves my social life. I don't think I've ever made a trip to that little store without running into a friend. I can have a great social life on Saturday night just hanging out by the produce."

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Their history, our future

As I was looking for ideas for logos to accompany our new name, Grassroots Community Co-op, I came across a page on the history of the co-op my family was a part of starting in the late-70's.  What struck me was how similar their goals for starting the Linden Hills Co-op were to the goals that we have for wanting a storefront food co-op.

The co-op was the brainchild of long-time Linden Hills resident Carol Vaubel. In the mid-70s, she was the chairperson of the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council (LHiNC). "My impetus for doing this was two things: the community aspect of it and the foods—having less processed, less packaged, whole food available at a reasonable price," said Vaubel recently. After floating the idea and receiving positive feedback, Vaubel set about turning it into a reality. For approximately nine months leading up to March 1976, an enormous volunteer effort went into the opening of the co-op.

The rest of the article includes some interesting details regarding the amount of money that it took them to get going (about $2,000, but it was 1976), the fact that volunteers built all of the shelving and bins, and the fact that they now have nearly 4,000 members and annually take in about $7 million (yes, a true storefront food co-op making $7,000,000 a year!).