This post is part of the guest series “Locavore Q & A“. Whether a beginning cook in the kitchen or a seasoned local farmer, we all have different motivations for choosing a locavore lifestyle. Each post highlights a different perspective on local food. Today’s post was written by Mirra Fine from the Perennial Plate. Mirra and her co-producer Daniel Klein document their adventures in eating local in Minnesota and around the U.S. in weekly short films. Her work in film and social media continues to be a motivating force for many local food supporters. Welcome Mirra!
Q: Why did you start eating local?
A: Local food wasn’t a major point of interest to me until a few years ago. I loved the processed, mass produced, perfectly shaped and colored foods you could find at your local grocery store, gas station, and chain restaurant. So when my new boyfriend at the time would talk about his excitement in the coming tomato season, I thought him strange. He would insist that the quality of locally grown tomatoes during the right season produced a taste unmatched. But in my mind, we had access to perfectly good, beautifully uniform tomatoes all year round, so I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. And then I went to Florida and found out.
In October 2011, I spent a couple days with immigrant farm laborers who pick tomatoes in Immokalee, Florida where 1/3 of the tomatoes grown in the United States originate. Lupe Gonzales, our host for the visit, took us to the tomato fields where row upon row of tomato plants were awaiting their (very literal) field day. In a few weeks, tomatoes would begin growing, and just a few weeks later thousands of laborers would fill their buckets with almost unrecognizable (bright green and very unripe) fruit. Then the tomatoes, hard as rocks and barely edible, would be gassed to give them a red color and sent far and wide to a grocery store near you. Now, not even noting on the treatment of the farm laborers (ps. each person gets roughly $0.45/bucket of 40 lbs of tomatoes picked in the hot sun), the whole tomato story is pretty off-putting. But this is what is done to create fruit that can travel.
Eat a store bought conventional tomato next to one grown in your backyard and you will be blown away. At least I was. The former sort of tastes like nothing in comparison. But that’s not the only reason to eat locally and seasonably. It’s cool to know who is growing your food, and how it got to your table. You know that the people who are working on each farm (or in the backyard) are being treated well and fairly. And you can feel good about it. With the produce at the grocery store, you cant say the same thing. So that’s why I choose to buy local now. At least as much as I can. And though I’m not perfect (I don’t think I could survive without avocados in my life), I feel pretty good about what I eat.