The Family Roberts is embarking on a gastric adventure, a year of locavore eating. Starting in May 2010, we plan to eat almost exclusively foods from within a 250 mile radius of our family home in Palouse, Washington. We will aim to learn and practice subsistence skills regarding planting, growing, preserving, preparing and procuring food. In the meantime, we are doing what we can to prepare and make sure we are ready and able when the time comes. This blog is a record of our efforts.

UPDATE! We are OFFICIALLY starting our local eating experiment on May 20th. I (Anna) am flying to Flagstaff, Arizona on May 10th to get Angela. We will drive her car back up to Washington starting May 15th and when we get back, it will be official! We have done so much over the past months to get ready… and thanks to an early spring, we already have vegetables growing in our garden.

At this time, I would like to talk in a bit more detail about what it is we are doing. A lot of people have some crazy ideas about what we are up to and I can see why! This is a new idea to a lot of folks and we haven’t always been perfectly clear about describing it. It has taken us a long time to really define the project for ourselves.

The basic object of this exercise is to reduce carbon emissions, eat healthier and tastier food, support the local economy and food growers, grow some of our own food and opt out of the harmful and creepy “industrial” food model by eating regionally grown and produced food.

If you have any doubts about these goals, please take a look at our Recommended Reading list on this blog or post a comment with your questions.

And now, a word about exceptions! This is a big topic and one that potentially causes some controversy. There will be exceptions to the local rule, YES. Here is a brief list of a few things we will continue to buy non-regionally.

1. General food preparation goods. This includes things like baking soda, baking powder, yeast, certain homebrewing ingredients and cheese cultures. We need these things to make our food but we can’t get them locally. Luckily these items are dry (light weight for shipping)  and used in small amounts.

1. Salt. Salt is a necessity for preserving food (canning). Without it, we will die. 🙂 Salt and spices have been shipped around the world since time immemorial but we aren’t getting it from around the world… we bought Real Salt from Utah on our vacation there to minimize its carbon footprint.

2. Oil. We could use lard but we don’t want to for obvious reasons, namely our health. We do grow canola in this region but as far as we know it is actually shipped and processed elsewhere so it wouldn’t be local technically because of all that trucking it around. If you ever hear of a locally grown and pressed canola oil, please let us know.

3. Spices. We are making an exception for spices because they are used in such tiny amounts and are shipped dry so they have a minimal carbon footprint compared to other products so we think it is worth it. We can grow hundreds of kinds of herbs but sometimes you just want some paprika!

Notice that the exceptions list doesn’t include any main food items like produce, meat, grain or dairy. This is a good time to bring up one of the most important things I want you all to know so if you are skimming, read the next paragraph.

The idea of this experiment is not to prove that we can go without. It is not a campaign of deprivation. If we have a point to prove, it is that we can live in a healthy and sustainable way and eat as well or better than we would have otherwise. We want to show people that anyone can do it, you don’t have to be nuts or give up everything you love. If you want to eat more local food but you can’t give up chocolate, don’t! It isn’t inherently bad to buy imported food but I do think it’s weird to buy lettuce from Argentina when you could be getting it from your local farmer, neighbor or your own backyard. We have an abundance of incredible food all around us that goes to waste while we buy processed factory food from god-knows-where. It is also important to note that it can be very difficult to get things that are made and grown locally. Virtually all the food produced in our region is shipped out to giant processing plants and then shipped back to us before we ever see it. We would like to see a shift in the system so that you could go to your local supermarket and buy food that is actually local. Not everyone has the time to invest in finding local food sources that we have… and it just shouldn’t be that hard! Everyone should have access to fresh, local food that supports the local economy.

OKAY, end rant!

One more thing that is very important, please read! We get asked about this all the time so here is your answer! As much as the rest of the world would appreciate it, we are not planning to stay at home 24/7 for the next year!! Sorry folks, hate to disappoint, but we do actually occasionally leave our house so PLEASE do not think it is HILARIOUS to give us a hard time if you see us at our local cafe enjoying coffee, pizza or wine. If we could go to a restaurant that served only local food we would, but that restaurant doesn’t exist. If we go to someone’s house for dinner, we will graciously eat whatever food is served. If we go to Spokane for the day we will eat lunch out. If it is the weekend we will go to Rico’s and drink a rum and coke. A few people have found this hypocritical but here is the deal folks: I won’t be letting this experiment interfere with my social life. Apologies to those who were hoping we would stay in our little compound, never to emerge again! I will say that we hope to support our local businesses, particularly the ones that make some attempt at being “green,” “sustainable,” or “enter some other buzz word here.”

Thanks for reading. We appreciate all of your support, comments and questions so much!!

– Anna


6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    amywarwick said,

    Hi Locos! We are enjoying reading about your adventures and our minds are constantly working over new ways that we can contribute locally. Did you get to put up applesauce. I picked a bunch of yummy apples out on the old railroad track. I am going to make juice, pie filling and applesauce. If you want some, I would love to share. I also read about making tea leaves from our raspberry leaves next winter. Yummy!!!

  2. 2

    evette clement said,

    I got your blog address from the article in Mary Janes Farm. Lovely pictures, I will be visiting often. From a farm girl wanna be.

  3. 3

    Christina Colvin said,

    I am so impressed Anna (and family)!! I commend you for what you are going to achieve, because I think it will be an eye-opener to a lot of people! I make my own bread, granola and buy locally and organically, but wish I could do as much as you are about to. Ever since I saw “Food, Inc” I will never look at food in the grocery store the same ….. and I will follow your blog along your journey!! All the best and hope you have a great time with the family! Give my best to Angela! xoxo

    • 4

      Anna said,

      Thanks Christina! I love that people are getting turned on to this idea… and just the few things you mentioned that you do are amazing and would make such a huge difference if more people did the same. Thanks for reading and keep in touch!

  4. 5

    Allen Ingram said,

    I would like to write an article with monthly updates on your progress. If you are interested I would need to take some of your blog entry articles and quote from them, as well as use pictures you have taken of your year of adventure.
    About me:
    Based in Vancouver, BC. Ran Canada’s only 5 diamond restaurant, won a DiRoNA award, Award of Excellence from the Wine Spectator, am a certified Sommelier, Chef and Cheese maker. I am very interested in your particular cause as it highlights the need for local sustainable living, and will bring many challenges to your table. How far are you going to go with the 250 mile radius? Presumably you need to have some limits as you won’t be able to source salt or pepper, or coffee locally of course.

    Anyway if you feel comfortable allowing me to chart your exploits let me know , and I’ll send you a first batch of questions to establish your goals, which we can then chart throughout the year.

  5. 6

    sam roberts said,

    hey yall,
    my mom just passed along your website to me and told me we are extended family. my name is sam, daughter of donna and andy roberts. perhaps we are second or third cousins. im also into sustainable ag and eating locally. i love your project and have a similar one on the horizon myself. would love to get in touch, as i also live in the pacific northwest. keep up the good work!

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