Reducing our 'food miles'


Lately I've been counting the black raspberries as I pick them -- 501, 502, 503. . . So far my biggest day was 533 berries, and the brambles have grown so profusely that it takes me a good 40 minutes a day just to collect the hand-staining morsels. I plop each berry into a cracked, plastic colander, and, every other day, my hubby whips up a batch of black raspberry jam, which we preserve in mason jars. As of yesterday, it appears that we won't have to buy jam for a decade or so.

Once the tomatoes come on, we'll make salsa and tomato sauce, and we'll can those, along with whole, heat-packed tomatoes, for future use. As for our basil harvest, we'll blend each green wave of the stuff into pesto and can it for later. The same goes for cucumbers. We're ready to make pickles and preserve them, too. (I'm guessing our pickle situation will be much like that of the jam, and we'll have more than we know what to do with.) Likewise, we should have scads of Georgia Jet sweet potatoes, Yukon Gold yellow potatoes, garlic and storage onions. It's all part of our plan to grow at least half of our own food this year.

Now, for the most part, I've always gardened for fun, for the exercise, and for my mental health, but I've added another reason to the list: I hope to reduce our "food miles" -- the distance required to transport food from farm fields in the U.S. or abroad to our dinner plates. Bringing the Food Economy Home: Local Alternatives to Global Agribusiness authors Helena Norberg-Hodge, Todd Merrifield, and Steven Gorelick suggest, "A typical plate of food in the U.S. has accumulated some 1500 miles from source to table." What's more, "The average distance we now drive to shop for food each year is 898 miles." That's a lot of miles, but others say it's one's food-related carbon footprint which matters most. Sometimes it's hard to know just which practices are the greenest. One thing I know for sure: growing and preserving one's own fresh produce is assuredly the tastiest.

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