Eating locally in Northern Nevada – is it possible?
June 4, 2007
“We wanted to live in a place that could feed us,” writes Barbara Kingsolver in her new book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” In 2005, after more than 20 years in Tucson, Ariz., Kingsolver and her family pulled up stakes and moved to southern Appalachia, where they settled on a hill farm determined not to eat anything grown more than 10 miles from their new home. The book is about the family’s year of eating locally.
Why on earth would anyone want to do that? What’s the point? Kingsolver’s husband and co-author Steven Hopp points out that each food item in an average U.S. meal has traveled 1,500 miles. Add to the fuel it takes to transport the food the fossil-fueled energy it takes to till, fertilize, dry, mill, sort, bake, and package, and we end up with food that consumes many more calories of energy to produce than we get when we eat it. Eating fresh, minimally packaged, locally grown food saves energy – and cuts carbon emissions.
There are more reasons to eat locally. Locally grown food tastes better and has more nutrients because it hasn’t been sitting in trucks, cargo planes, and grocery store bins for days and even weeks. Eating locally also makes our food supply less prone to bio-terrorism, since the shorter transport provides fewer opportunities for tampering with food shipments. And eating locally supports small, local businesses.
Yeah, right, I thought. It might be easy to eat locally if you live in Sacramento or Kentucky, Napa or New Hampshire. Places where it rains. Places where people actually grow things. But Nevada? Then I remembered the beef in my freezer from Eureka County, Nevada – beef that is, by the standards of Nevada’s long distances, local. I decided to find out whether it’s possible to eat locally in Carson City.
But what’s local? The Kingsolver family settled on a radius of 10 miles from their home. Others who have done the same experiment have been much more generous with themselves, giving themselves a 250-mile radius. If you took a 250-mile radius from Carson City, you would take in all of California’s Central Valley and the northern California coast to about 30 miles off the Golden Gate. In that area farmers produce oysters, wine, peaches, cherries, grapes, almonds, walnuts, cheese, eggs, chickens, rice, and much, much more. Whew, doesn’t look like we’ll starve.
In the other direction, 250 miles would take you to and past Eureka County, former home of the beef in my freezer. The NevadaGrown Web site (www.nevadagrown.com) lists farms and ranches in Fallon, Yerington, Silver Springs, Wellington, Gardnerville and Washoe Valley producing honey, herbs, beef, Heart ‘o Gold melons, apples, tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, carrots, peas, and more.
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If you decide you want to save energy, help the planet, and get healthier by eating locally, where do you purchase the stuff? When I was growing up in California in the ’50s and ’60s, every family drive across the Central Valley took us past dozens of fruit stands set up by the side of the road. Living in the mountains, we craved fresh, tree-ripe produce, so my mother always loaded up the family station wagon with peaches and grapes, red, ripe tomatoes and huge melons. I’ve never seen a farm stand in Carson City, though.
Fortunately, we do have farmers markets. Carson City’s farmers market takes place every Wednesday, 3 to 7 p.m., in the Pony Express Pavilion in Mills Park, beginning today. Produce and food vendors at the Carson Farmers market come from Northern California and Northern Nevada. Farmers market coordinator Shirley Sponsler tells me that today they will have fresh, organic lettuce, stone fruits including cherries, roasted cashews, and other treats. Reno’s Moana Nursery will be there with local gardening tips. Shirley says the farmers market will emphasis activities for children this year, with recipes, scavenger hunts, and more. She also says we’ll see more eat-at-the-market food, including market sandwiches and smoothies. (For more information including weekly recipes, go to crystlbrdg.clearwire.net).
Another way to obtain locally grown produce is through a system called community supported agriculture – CSA for short – in which for a set price you sign up with a local farmer for a weekly bag or basket of produce. In our area Smith and Smith Farms of Dayton, Sue’s Garden, Churchill Butte Organics, Custom Gardens in Silver Springs, and the Great Basin Basket Project all deliver produce baskets. Some of these programs are full, but if you’re interested in signing up for a weekly basket, they’re still available from Smith and Smith for $35 weekly, delivered to your door (phone 775-246-9005) or Great Basin Baskets, $450 for the 18-week season, delivered to Comma Coffee for your pick up (greatbasinbaskets.yahoo.com).
If you want to visit a farm stand, (call ahead 775-577-2067 for exact start date) Custom Gardens operates an on-farm “Greenmarket” every Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. This market day goes through mid October.
What would a locally produced meal look and taste like? I asked Philip Moore, “sustainable consumption” chair of the Sierra Club’s Toiyabe Chapter, who is very committed to eating locally. He said he’d start with a salad made from greens, carrots and tomatoes from his own garden, then move on to pasta tossed with veggies from a local CSA, then finish up with a strawberry rhubarb pie Ð rhubarb from his neighbor’s backyard and strawberries from a farmers market or CSA. Sounds good to me!
• Anne Macquarie, a private sector urban planner, is a 19-year resident of Carson City.