Welcome to 2015, everyone! It’s the time of year when we all start assessing what we want to change about our lives and what we want to focus on in the coming year be it reading more, exercising more, eating better, etc (or even eating more squirrel like this writer for Modern Farmer). I’ve always been pretty bad at making New Years Resolutions. I take on too much and expect myself to suddenly change every bad habit I have overnight. I’ve begun to try looking more at the New Year as a chance to make small lifestyle changes to work toward a larger goal. This article from takepart.com puts New Years Resolutions into a perspective I can get behind. The idea of “positive power” is so helpful for shifting my approach to one of “empowerment” and enrichment instead of self-restriction and self-deprecation. It is easy too look at everything that you are not doing well and allow that to take over your perspective. Frances Moore Lappe says to start by “eating as if every bite matters, because it does.” Eating locally is a huge lifestyle change and when I made the choice to eat as locally as possible it was one of the most difficult shifts I have ever attempted. It started out simply as a challenge to myself. I understood the importance of buying local and supporting the local economy, and had done an incredibly good job of romanticizing the idea of delicious, beautiful, local produce. I had just finished reading Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen; needless to say I knew very little about what I was getting myself into. I had to learn how to make changes in small steps and not focus on what I was doing poorly but instead focus on ways to enrich my life. It took a while to understand that it is perfectly alright to slowly work up to the lifestyle that I believed in–and I will probably always be working toward it. But once I allowed myself to slowly move forward and opened myself up to the journey, my motivation emerged. If you pay attention, eating locally can lead you down a surprisingly diverse path, and if you’re like me, there’s no going back.
What I find especially interesting about the local food movement is that everyone seems to stumble upon it for different reasons: health reasons, environmental reasons, curiosity, community building, books, documentaries, etc. It underlies so many different passions and connects so many different kinds of people. This is why taking small steps to a lifestyle of eating locally, participating in your local economy, getting to know those who grow your food and everyone in between, is a valuable pursuit. It’s not about denying yourself but about enriching your life as well as enriching the lives of those around you. It really is a paradigm shift. When you choose to eat locally, you are investing in the person who grew it, in your local environment, and in your local economy. It’s about putting value back into the place where you live and it helps you get to know the place you call home. You pay attention to the weather and start to notice how that affects your produce, you become aware of how much work it truly takes to get quality food on your table. Since becoming involved in the local food movement, I have met people from all over the world and from all walks of life. It has allowed me to truly understand and engage with different perspectives and brought me to a new understanding of myself, my home, and the world; eating locally allows us to live in the reality of how connected we all truly are to each other and to the soil we usually forget to notice.
Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmental and political activist and the first African woman to receive a Nobel Peace Prize, had a beautiful perspective on how even small steps can change the world. In the documentary Dirt! she tells the story of a hummingbird trying to put out a forest fire while being laughed at by the other larger animals. The hummingbird’s response is: “I’m doing the best I can.”
I often listen to this story when I’m feeling overwhelmed by how small I am in the grand scheme of the world, but all we can do is to do the best we can, and that is enough. So whatever your focus is that brings you to local food, foster it. Let it take you down the crazy path of the community around you, and have a little fun. Make your New Years Resolutions less about strict denial and open them up to inspiration. Enjoy the journey. If nothing else, you’ll be well fed.