The first step to learning about a new-to-you concept is usually getting down some basic lingo since each vocation or craft has its own language. I want to introduce you to a couple of key terms you are likely to hear when talking about sustainability in the area of urban/suburban food production:
Local Food – food which is grown geographically close to where you live. Depending on the food and your location, that might mean within 25 miles or 100 miles, in the same state or in your own yard. Local food is usually desirable because it dramatically reduces the number of miles your food travels to get to you, reducing dependence on fossil fuels for transportation, refrigeration, etc. Eating locally typically goes hand-in-hand with eating seasonally. In most climates, you are simply not going to be able to source fresh lettuce or tomatoes or peaches year-round; however, animal products are normally available all year. Eating locally also often results in becoming a more skilled cook. For example, you might learn to do some baking with honey since sugar is usually imported, although most people can find a local beekeeper. And finally, sourcing local foods generally means you are buying from the farmer herself, and that means more of your food dollars are going directly to the people producing your food, as well as staying in your own community.
Check out www.localharvest.org for farms, farmers’ markets, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares available in your area.
www.eatwild.com can help you locate local, ethically raised meat, dairy and eggs.
Edible Landscaping – using food plants in place of ornamentals in our yards, parkways and greenbelts. There are a wide variety of plants that are both beautiful and edible. For instance, have you ever seen “Bright Lights” Swiss chard? Artichokes are lovely, large thistle bushes, and if you don’t get around to eating them all, they will produce striking flowers. (The artichoke that we eat is the flower bud.) If you plant trees, why not choose fruit or nut trees? The flowers of most are really charming, and you can find both deciduous and evergreen food-bearing trees to suit your preferences.
Check out Western Garden Book of Edibles from “Sunset Magazine” publishers for detailed information on growing a whole host of edibles, or for choosing varieties suitable to your specific climate.
Photos courtesy of Lindsay Barnes
Lindsay Barnes is an aspiring “radical homemaker”. She and her husband, Brian and daughter Ila, live with a menagerie of animals on a quarter acre in Corona. They are part of Madison Street Church.