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Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 5.17.07

Eat Here Now

Let's change our eating habits, not the climate

BY JOHN PITNEY

In our country, food, the most essential and sacred substance of life, one of the great blessings of our natural and social world, comes (as author Bill McKibben puts it in his book Deep Economy) delivered to our tables "marinated in crude oil."

It takes half a gallon of oil to produce a bushel of Midwestern hybrid corn: 25 percent to make fertilizer, 35 percent to power farm machinery, 7 percent to irrigate the field and the rest to make pesticides, dry the crop and perform all the other tasks of industrial farming. And farming's the least of it! Processing, packaging and distributing food consumes four times the energy of farming itself. In our industrial system, it takes an average of 10 calories of fuel energy to produce, process and deliver one calorie of food energy to our tables.

The average American meal travels 1,500 miles from harvest to plate. That's a lot of fossil fuel burned and CO2 released into the atmosphere. In such an agriculturally rich and diverse state, we have a momentous opportunity to figure out how to move regionally raised produce to locally owned processing businesses to the home, restaurant and cafeteria tables of our communities without the marinade of crude.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a great way to vitalize our local economy and decrease our contribution to global warming with every bite. CSA is local people buying directly from local farmers. Households pay at the beginning of the season to share the risk and give farm families much needed cash flow to sustain their farm business and steward the land without having to go into debt. In return, participants receive a box of fresh fruits and vegetables each week throughout the season (May – October), delivered to convenient drop sites throughout the community. Some farms offer winter shares November through April. Some fill boxes year round. Some sell chicken, beef, pork, cheese, milk and eggs through CSA. Most provide newsletters and recipes for their members. There are more than a dozen CSAs in our area.

If joining a CSA is not for you, there are farmers' markets in communities across our county every day of the week. Buying directly puts a larger percentage of each food dollar into farmers' hands, keeping their business viable while building hometown economy.

But the narrow CSA model and farmers' markets alone won't be antidote enough to heal atmosphere, economy or hunger without a broader public will, complete with infrastructure and funding, to connect local farms to families, locally owned groceries, restaurants, processors and all kinds of institutions with cafeterias, including public schools. Let's quit marinating all our food in oil. Instead, let us flavor it with justice, good stewardship and good sense.

If you are interested in local food and farm related issues and want to know who's who in the local food scene, please join us at an informal community potluck and networking event next week, hosted by the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition and the Helios Resource Network.

The Eat Here Now: Local Food Networking Banquet will be held from 6:30 to 9 pm Thursday, May 24, at the First United Methodist Church (13th and Olive). Suggested donation: $5-$20.

This will be an evening of good food and educative entertainment. We will view a few delightful film shorts; enjoy food for thought from local speakers; learn about the issues and efforts of our local organizations, farmers and food businesses; and spend time connecting with each other over a delicious meal of predominantly local foods.

 

Our intentions in hosting the event are toward strengthening our food community, harnessing the public's awareness of food related issues and fostering the viability and sustainability of our local food resources.

Co-sponsoring organizations include: EWEB's Healthy Farms Program, Eugene Permaculture Guild, FOOD for Lane County, Lane County Food Policy Council, Lost Valley Education Center, School Garden Project, Slow Food Eugene and the Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance.

Proceeds raised will go to the That's My Farmer Low-Income Fund, which subsidizes CSA shares and provides Farmers' Market Dollars for low-income families.

Call 341-1216 to RSVP for the Eat Here Now event or to request a copy of Locally Grown (directory of local farms and businesses that sell local foods).

 

John Pitney is associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Eugene and a longtime advocate of sustainable agriculture. He has been the lead organizer of the Lane County faith community's annual That's My Farmer event the past seven years. He serves on the board of the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition (lanefood.org).