Saturday, April 12, 2008

Local food as a radical act

Local food is a powerful sustainability potion.

The second Kaua'i Conservation Conference at Kaua'i Community College, April 11 and 12, celebrated that with what they called an All-Kauai Meal.

(Photo: Kalo growing among sweet potatoes in a Kaua'i garden.)

It's an intriguing concept: eating local food as a radical act. Poi as a way to say, “Up the establishment.”

For most people, it might be baffling to try to figure out how to do an all local meal.

The “fish and poi” of a bygone era has been replaced, one speaker said, by Spam, Vienna sausage and rice.

And yet, if you want to eat food whose pesticide content can be readily determined by talking to the farmer, whose freshness is known, whose transportation cost is minimal, and which will still be available during shipping and air cargo disruptions—you need to eat local.

The All-Kauai Meal served at the conference had local beef, local kalua pork, locally caught ono, a couple of dishes of local greens, local (tasty!) purple sweet potato and some other local foods. The only non-local item was rice, which used to be grown on Kaua'i, but no longer is.

There's a distinct “if you build it, they will come” feature to eating local food.

The theory: If you spend money at Costco or Wal Mart, you're sending a message that those companies' products are needed.

If you spend money with local food producers, the message is that they can make a living producing their crops.

“Every time you put a dollar down, you're saying, 'I want more of this,'” said one speaker.

The opposite is, of course, also true. You can talk all you want about the value of and the need for locally produced food, but if you and your friends and neighbors don't buy it, it won't happen.

The goal ultimately would be to eat some or all of every meal from local farms—or from your own backyard garden. Marie Mauger at the conference suggested folks start small: just once a week, try to eat an all-local meal.

Ts we dine on fish from our surrounding seas, beef from the north shore, pork from the south shore, poi from the north shore, and vegetables harvested from Moloa'a and KÄ«lauea, all prepared beautifully and generously by local artisans, let us be thankful for the abundance on our island and share a vision for the future.”

© 2008 Jan W. TenBruggencate