Saturday, April 5, 2008

How did I get the idea of a local foods fair?

"How did you get the idea to have a Local Foods Fair", the Waukesha Freeman reporter asked me this week. I answered some generic answer about how it wasn't only my idea and how it was a growing trend across the country. Afterwards, though, I thought more about this question and realized the answer was more complex than this and went way back. 

At first I thought of reading Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Mineral last summer and the "local eating challenge" that my friends and I undertook.  I thought of how I gather my family's food from a mixture of conventional grocery stores, natural grocery stores, CSA's, farmer's markets, buying clubs, direct from farmers and from my own backyard. I occasionally decide that this is ridiculous, that I am not European and should simply shop at one supermarket and stop wasting my time running all over just to feed my family.  I thought of the first CSA I participated in back when my husband and I were first new parents and eating a lot more take out pizza's than fresh vegetables. I thought of growing up near Madison and the Madison Farmer's Market that folks go to just for the experience, even if they don't need to buy any food. Then I arrived at my childhood and realized where it all began.

I grew up in a country neighborhood where everyone had two acre lots and big gardens. There were a ton of kids and we all played and roamed from house to house and yard to yard. During the summer we happily helped ourselves to the bounty from these backyard gardens. We knew where to find the best raspberries, the best peas, the best cucumbers. We ate tomatoes whole and wiped the juice on our sleeves. We found exotic caterpillars while we ate blackberries. Our parents didn't seem to mind that we helped ourselves and I wonder know if they planted extra for our "yard snacks". knew where to find the most incredible apples, but we hardly dared as that neighbor would come screaming out and chasing after us if we tried to take even a windfall. I swear she must of sat at her window, watching and waiting for us. Of course, it was sometimes worth the risk.  We also ate things that grew wild in our lawns and woods. I am not sure how we knew that they were safe to eat or yummy and I am not even sure what most of them are today. We munched on clover, "sourgrass", and "Indian gum" and sucked the nectar out of "buttercups". 

So I realized that "eating locally" was how I grew up. It is part of me and I've probably spent my adult years, searching out ways to bring this experience back. Going to the Supermarket would be a lot easier, but finding all the yummy food in your "neighborhood" is so much more fun. 

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