Carrboro, North Carolina
Born and raised in central Maine, my youth was spent mowing the lawn, kicking a soccer ball against the garage doors, and trying to sneak sugar cereal out of the kitchen cupboards after I was put to bed. More about Tim
South Royalton, Vermont
I am a baby boomer who grew up in a time when the trend in food was convenience and speed. It wasn't the fast-food era, but a post-World War II time when ... More about Warren
We live in Holliston, Massachusetts. When we bought our house in Holliston about 27 years ago, Holliston was a rural/residential town of about 13,000 people. More about Barbara
Wallace, West Virginia
My name is Autumn. I'm 24 years old, and I live in rural north-central West Virginia. I was born and raised in West Virginia, and in 2005 I graduated from ... More about Autumn
My personal interests revolve around the environment, both knowing more about it and getting outside and enjoying my surroundings. This led me down an educational path to ... More about April
Posted at 9:02 PM on December 27, 2008 by Timothy Baird (8 Comments)
I was in the chair for my biannual cleaning about two weeks ago. The dental hygienist made small talk about the weather and the ensuing holidays. She's much better at this kind of chat than most - pleasant and sincere. She had remembered that my wife and I were in grad school and that my wife studied nutrition. As she prepared her tools and fastened the bib around my neck she asked if I recalled from my previous visit that she had been slated to participate in an academic study of the effect of nutrition and physical activity interventions on weight loss. Studies like these are common at large research universities, especially UNC where the School of Public Health is awash in research funds. I said that I did, which was mostly true. She reminded me that she had been enthusiastic to participate in the study, to help the researchers, and most importantly to lose weight. Six months later, she readily volunteered she had not lost any weight, she had dropped out of the study, and in her mind she had wasted the researchers' time. She said she felt like a failure.
As the last sands of 2008 pass through the glass and I think back on 12 months of locavore nation, I feel that I am more able to relate to the hygienist's story than perhaps I would like.
It is no secret, and certainly no matter of great importance, that I have failed to supply the blog with entries over the last few months. I pledged to eat locally for a year and to blog about the experience and having notched a solid 12 months in only one of these two categories, I am unable to shake the idea that I have failed.
The initiated reader will readily see this as a shameless solicitation for comforting words and impassioned statements to the contrary. I would not struggle to defend myself against these claims, but my whimpering tone here is only partly melodramatic. Indeed, I am proud of my participation in this project and this sentiment is reflected adequately, I believe, in my prior posts and my own expanded sense of myself and my diet. My sense of failure, conversely, is more encompassing than my own seat at the table.
It pleases me to think of myself as a driven individual - someone with mental and physical stamina - someone who can finish the race. And yet my own year-long contribution towards a more sustainable food environment was itself unsustainable and for that I feel... well, unsatisfied.
I applaud those locavores who remained diligent eaters and bloggers. I feel I have earned the right to say that theirs' were extraordinary and perhaps lonely efforts. For my own part, I can only claim membership in the former group. I continued to shop the local even as my income and my free-time were considerably reduced. But ultimately I grew frustrated with the blog. And so, I stopped writing.
Life happened. My work consumed me, the days grew shorter, and as the costs of punching out an entry grew, it seems that the benefits began to shrink.
I started to feel like we were a side-show. Filler for the website and radio show. The link to the locavore site itself became less local, moving steadily south on the Splendid Table homepage as the months went by - buried by other links and other information. The handful of radio minutes dedicated to the project precluded all but the briefest glimpse into the lives of the dedicated bloggers rendering our efforts more cute than compelling. Readership declined. The enthusiastic emails from the project coordinators fell away and the website updates to provide more access to archived entries never materialized. The attention of other media outlets never came. My friends stopped asking. And in my mind I retreated from the front line.
Perhaps my expectations were too high... and certainly my own goals were unclear.
My intent is not to play the role of the victim. Nor do I intend to pull back the curtain to expose the wizard or to absolve myself of my own role. My goal here is to suggest that I was an accomplice in an unrealized opportunity to get the word out... to rise to the promise the project held at its outset ...or perhaps simply to sustain our inspired selves.
My energy was diminished. My local accounting faded. Near the end, I began missing the market and counting the pennies more closely. I might have saved money this year, I don't know. The numbers are around here somewhere - I just don't care right now. I might have used less energy. I might have sustained something. Who knows? I suppose I needed something more. Perhaps a push. Perhaps a break.
Please bear this in mind - I wouldn't have eaten locally for a year but for this project and can confidently say that I would do it all again if I knew the outcome would be the same. I am profoundly grateful for this experience and for those who shared it with me. I have recently thought that a book about this project would be in order. Ultimately, the results of this experiment cannot be fully known until our futures are accounted for, but in the present I would like to go on the record for speaking my mind and taking my own conflicted place for the curtain call.
And so what does it take to eat locally for a year? I would have to say that it takes the enthusiasm of your friends, great farmers and great relationships. It takes money and free time. It takes failing. It takes non-local foods, conversation, debate, and media attention. It takes people caring about it. It takes good soil, a loving spouse, and a great market. It takes good weather and a sense of purpose. It takes a sense of humor. It takes a spice rack, patience and whiskey. It takes a sense that our successes and our failures are at the same time personal and collective - unique and usual. Eating locally takes writing a blog about local food... and it takes not writing a blog about local food. And apparently - it takes a lot more than just these things.
Thanks for reading.
Thank you for your efforts and dedication to this project. The postings I have read have been insightful and, more importantly, an honest glimpse into a challenging endeavor.
The irony of this 'challenge' lies in the fact that eating locally is so inherently difficult today. Yourself and the others involved have shown that we do have decisions above and beyond the standard fare of the supermarket shelf.
Hopefully, the organizers of this project will use the resulting web and audio content to further the discussion. If not, I'm sure a book would be a welcome addition to the growing interest in this return to our dietary roots.
Posted by Skiwithdanel | December 27, 2008 10:43 PM
I don't personally think you let anyone down by not writing endless numbers of postings. The point is that you stuck with the local diet for the entire year despite all the difficulties it brings. You offered your thoughts along the way about the food chain and where it's going right and wrong, and they were well expressed. What more can we ask for? You and Kiyah are pioneers pointing us toward a more sustainable practice of eating locally. You've inspired me to try harder in my own buying and eating habits, and we should all thank you and the rest of the Locavore Nation for giving it your best shot.
Posted by Phil Bardsley | December 29, 2008 9:28 AM
Hope you and Kiyah have a great holiday season and a wonderful 2009. Thanks for tellin' it like it is, in this post and throughout the year. It's been a pleasure to read about your local eating adventures this year, and I hope we locavores can maintain some level of contact in the future. If you're ever in WV, please know that you're always welcome at the People's Republic of Rock 'n' Roll (aka our farm). Good luck with that procreating. ;-)
Posted by Autumn Long | December 29, 2008 9:54 AM
You've done great work here. The Splendid Table asked for a big commitment, and you kept your word, despite other obligations and a summersaulted economy, which must have complicated the entire program for you. Having asked for such a big commitment, I, too, have been perplexed and frustrated by what seemed to be a lack of follow through by The Splendid Table. The project seemed to simply be dropped, where it could have been amplified and dovetailed with the program in so many ways.
I do hope something is ultimately made of all these posts and the collective experiences of all the participants.
As an example of a vibrantly explored and supported year of eating locally, readers may want to check out Eating Alabama at http://www.eatingalabama.org/. Sara Fuller has done a bang-up job there.
As did you, Tim. Your posts were consistently searching, honest, and humorous. Thanks for giving us a year of your time.
Posted by Adam Gori | December 29, 2008 10:14 AM
I did not always post for various reasons yetI enjoyed reading your posts and those of our fellow locavores. Perhaps we should create our own Locavore wiki to continue the discussions stalled by ST. I hope that we are all able to meet in person some day.
Posted by P. Thompson | December 29, 2008 3:37 PM
I've enjoyed your posts, and agree with your frustrations. Keep doing what you can, and have a great 2009. Enjoy parenthood. I can speak from experience and tell you its great.
Oh, and I don't know why I didn't notice before, but we're both geographers. I'm finishing my PhD at Ohio State. Maybe I'll see you around the AAG. I'm skipping Vegas though.
Posted by April | December 30, 2008 4:18 PM
From my point of view the project has been a revelation. Your accountings of food budgets compared to previous years were great, and removed my excuse that eating organically or locally is more expensive, in money anyway. It is certainly more expensive in time, but I enjoy doing it. I found that I eat organically and locally for about same price others spend on processed and transported food.
I have never heard the Splendid Table radio program, for me the whole project has been this blog. I heard about it from my friend Leslie, and have been reading since the start. I live in the next valley over from Leslie, and don't get the station that carries the program.
So from my radio reception hole, you have all been a great inspiration and great resources too. I hope the project continues in some form.
Posted by Kathy | December 31, 2008 2:46 PM
Your efforts have not gone in vain and we did muster much media coverage. Looking at the dismal state of the economy, I hope most people realize that we never obtained the funding we needed to do the 100 percent we'd hoped. My heart has always been in this project (as the orginator) whether my efforts we funded or not. Not speaking for the show, but for myself,I know non-profit public radio, like other organizations employs too few people to do too many things. In the future we hope to launch another project to extend the impact of Locavore Nation. However, that can only happen with the help of funders.Congratulations on seeing things through.
Posted by Kathleen Davies | January 5, 2009 12:07 PM