The Eat Local Challenge
My mom and I ran across an interesting account the other day on Instagram where a man was challenging himself to eat only what he could produce in his backyard garden for an entire year. It sounded like something that was right up our alley! We also knew that it was probably a bit too big of a bite for our family, and even us, to chew. I can remember specifically saying, “I know this is something that I could definitely do, or at least attempt, alone… but not with the entire family.” This is not to say our family is not up to the challenge. We just are not purists in our meaningful pursuit to eat more wholesome foods and cook from scratch. We still go out to eat, and the boys (most often but not always!) like to bring home chips and deli meat. I don’t mean to pick on them, but it just tends to happen that way.
After seeing the challenge to eat only what you grow for any entire year, Jill and I wondered if we could create our own challenge. We had been considering something we called The Pioneer Challenge for several months, which is similar to this. Due to this crazy farming season, we know that the price of food will inevitably go up. Our thought was to try living like the pioneers, where we would stock up on bulk dry ingredients for months at a time, kind of like shopping at a general store, and then only eat fresh things from the garden.
In The Eat Local Challenge, we are giving ourselves a bit of a break and only trying it for 30 days. This will put less pressure on ourselves to be perfect for a long period of time. It will also truly bring to light what we have available here in our region of Iowa, especially on a year when the crops are late and sometimes nonexistent. It will also remove much of the processed foods that are not grown locally from out diet, with a few exceptions.
Here are the rules:
Eat as much locally grown and produced food as possible. We are keeping the distance within the state of Iowa. For you, this could mean within 100 miles or whichever distance you prefer. We usually find foods that are a maximum of 100 miles around our area anyway. We could also even venture into the Quad Cities area for our location!
Source fresh foods indefinitely. This means perishable items like produce, dairy, and meats. We know that when these items have to travel long distances, they are not at their prime and are often preserved to last the journey. We want fresh!
Be more lenient on dry goods. This would be flour, sugar, baking ingredients, rice, etc. These things are simply not grown in Iowa. Should we stop eating them? I am not sure. What would you do? For me, elimination diets only work for so long. Limiting certain foods tends to work better for me, but a lot of what we are eating lately pairs best with rice or another grain considering it is spring. I have been looking into local grain sources, which has been fun but also expensive!
Don’t be too hard on ourselves. We are not limiting our outings to restaurants just yet, though we do not go out often anyway. There are some things that we are trying to work out as well like fruit for Tad that is definitely not grown in the state of Iowa. I don’t want to limit him on produce that he loves and asks for daily like bananas and oranges. There has to be balance.
Source food at the farmer’s market, farm stands, and other country stores (and our own garden!). This one makes it fun, and I think really brings that challenge more to light. Start your week of groceries at the farmers market and build from there. While we farm ourselves and work the farmers market, it has helped me in huge amounts to just buy all of my produce at the farmers market and then create a meal rather than the other way around. This has helped me to learn that my cravings can be subdued and that food does not have to be emotional. I may want a squash stew, but that’s not available to me yet. It has been really fun to purchase new-to-me veggies, come home, and figure out what to turn them into or to place them in for different vegetables in more well-know recipes.
Sounds fun and fairly simple, right? I tend to hate challenges and rhythms because they just set you up for failure, even if they do give you a goal. In my opinion, the best way to create a rhythm is to not have one. It creates itself. But that is just me! This challenge, however, is just pushing us to really not source any outside produce, meats, and dairy other than what we can find right here. Because we have got a really amazing thing going in this small and rich farming community. I know that this might be a difficult thing for those of you that live in larger cities or areas without much farmland. Perhaps we can share our sources with each other in the comments!
Our Local Sources - Wellman, IA:
Our farm! Under A Tin Roof Farm & Country Store
Iowa City Farmer’s Market
Cedar Rapids Farmer’s Market
Stringtown Grocery (Amish owned)
Local Amish farm stands
The Berry Basket Farm (u-pick strawberries)
Farm on Sand Road or Blueberry Bottom Farm (u-pick blueberries)
Wilson’s Orchard (u-pick apples, apple cider vinegar, oils, and cider)
DAIRY + EGGS |
Wild Farm (pastured chicken and turkey, GAP certified pork)
The Barn Iowa (grass-fed & grain-finished beef)
We also eat locally hunted game when in season (fish, venison, rabbit, pheasant)
DRY GOODS & OILS |
Early Morning Harvest (flour, grains, cornmeal)
Pickle Creek Herbs (olive oil)
We hope that you can join us on our little challenge! This week we have introduced collard greens, swiss chard, turnips, cauliflower, and blueberries into our diet. It is starting to feel like summer little by little here. If you know of any good Iowa sources let me know! (: