VeganMoFo, Day 1: Eating Locally (X-Treme Edition)

October 1st, 2008 1:37 pm by Kelly Garbato

As I mentioned in yesterday’s link roundup, the Vegan Month of Food is upon us!:

Join us for VeganMofo – the Vegan Month Of Food. The idea is to write as much as you can for the month of October about vegan food. The blog entries can be about anything food related – your love of tongs, your top secret tofu pressing techniques, the first time your mom cooked vegan for you, vegan options in Timbuktu – you get the idea.

Last year we didn’t come up with strict guidelines for how often we wrote, but I think the idea is to shoot for every weekday, or about 20 times in the month. Don’t forget to tag your stuff “veganmofo” and you can use the VeganMoFo banner (^up there) on your mofo posts. If you’d like inspiration or would just like to whine about how hard it is, check out the MoFo forum on the PPK message boards.

As the world catches on that vegan food really is the best choice for animals (suck it, humane meat!), the planet (bite me, melting ice caps!) and people (piss off, heart disease!) let’s show them what vegan eating is all about.

One last thing – you may remember that VeganMoFo was in November last year, well, this year it’s in October because there’s more produce and stuff. Also, I’ll be in NYC this November and not really near a computer.

To be included here, just leave a comment on this blog entry with a link to your URL. I will then include you in the RSS feed, once I remember how to update it. You can also join the VeganMoFo Flicker group. Happy writing everyone! If you’re feeling at a loss for how to start this off, why don’t you make your first entry about that?

If you want to participate, it’s not too late. Head on over to the Post Punk Kitchen to register your blog, join the Flickr group, and grab a banner.

There’s been quite a bit of talk on the internets lately about the (dis)advantages of eating locally, eating organic, “voting” with your dollars and “happy” meat. All of which has gotten me thinking about where I shop, how I shop, how much I spend and whether I’m using my “vote” wisely.

For example, I generally view it as a positive step when the factory farming, fast-food mega-chains offer vegetarian options, such as Burger King and their BK Veggie Burger. No, the BK Veggie Burger probably won’t convert anyone to veg*nism, but it does offer veg*ns another option when dining out. And, on one level, I want to reward that tiny little shift toward inclusion. (I’m too cynical to call it “compassion” – really, all they have compassion for is their bottom line.)

But.

Do I really want to give my business, my money, to a company that, at its core, cares little for animals or the environment?

Wouldn’t my money be better spent at a veg*n establishment? What constitutes a “veg*n establishment,” anyway? A company owned wholly by veg*ns? A business that only offers veg*n wares? A veg*n owned company that only sells 100% veg*n products?

Whichever definition I choose, there aren’t many specifically veg*n businesses ’round these parts (for me, this constitutes rural Missouri, an hour outside of Kansas City). Even Eden Alley Café, which I love, offers some meat and dairy-based options. (Why, Eden Alley, why!?) And they’re a good hour’s drive from my house, natch. Unless you live in NYC or San Francisco, you probably face the same dilemma.

So I guess I could purchase many of my groceries online and have them shipped to me, but this raises another issue: all that gas and oil and whatnot that’s wasted during transport. Is this really better than buying what I can locally, from non-veg*n businesses?

It’s a fine line we walk between positively reinforcing “bad” companies who occasionally do good, and trying to support veg*n businesses that may be located across the country.

Which brings me to the topic of this post: X-Treme local eating. As in, walking out to your backyard, picking some greens and tomatoes, and making yourself a yummy garden-fresh salad, without spending a penny. (Save for the upfront costs, of course.)

While the husband and I have been lucky enough to have room for a garden (sometimes small, sometimes huge) in every placed we’ve lived since moving in together, our garden at the moment is crazy massive. We bought our first place last year and moved in about this time last fall. Since the move was well after the growing season, we didn’t get a chance to do much gardening last year. I think we’ve more than made up for it in 2008.

The previous owners, a retired couple, were avid gardeners themselves; when we bought the place, there was already a massive fenced garden, complete with rows and beds and railroad ties and soaker hoses. Though we’ll probably reconfigure the garden over the winter, it was more than enough to get us started. We planted about 1/3 of the area with a variety of fruits and veggies: green and yellow zucchini, spaghetti squash, green peppers, jalapenos, pumpkins, watermelon, cantaloupe, gourds, and tomatoes. So many tomatoes: cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, mini romas, beefstake, and some weird yellow variety that the bugs keep snatching from us.

2008-07-26 - First Harvest - 0009

We’ve had varying luck with the different plants; so far, the garden’s only yielded two edible cantaloupes, but we have about a dozen watermelons sitting in our garage, waiting to be eaten or made into diy fruit leather (more on that later in the month!).

Even better, we’ve discovered that there’s a mini-orchard in our front yard: four apple trees, two pear trees and an apricot tree. This all came as a pleasant surprise to us, as the property wasn’t advertised as having any fruit trees. (Since this is a huge plus, you’d expect to see fruit trees somewhere in the real estate listing, no?) Of course, we found ourselves overwhelmed with apples, so we freecycled a ton of them, but at least we’ll know what we’re in for next year.

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With all this home-grown food, our grocery bills have been on a steady decline since June. We’ve bought the occasional bag of salad or orange from the local grocer, as well as oodles of berries, but otherwise, we’ve managed to supply our own fresh fruit and veggies through most of the summer. Next year, we hope to do even more: there’s a decorative planter in the driveway that’s overgrown with weeds and a dying pine tree, so we’re planning on clearing that out this winter and filling it with strawberries next spring. (Along with blueberries, those are my fave!)

It’s true, we’ve spent a ton of time working outside, laboring in the garden, stripping the apples trees and such. I won’t lie; it can be hard work, especially if you’re fixin’ to grow all your own produce. But it’s tons of fun, and also very satisfying. As far as fresh foods go, I’ve more or less been able to opt out of the “voting with my wallet” quandary by growing it all my own darn self. It’s local, it’s organic, and it’s veg*n in every sense on the word: veg*n grown, veg*n harvested, veg*n prepared – and scarfed down into a happy veg*n belly. My vegetarian dogs included.

Now, the husband and I have been (dog) blessed with a large property. But you can get in on the act too, even if you live in a smaller home or an apartment. For example, the first place Shane and I rented together was a duplex with a small patio area and a shared backyard. We didn’t have much room for gardening, but Shane built a planter – about 6′ x 3′ in size – out of plywood, and plopped it down on the patio, right up against the privacy fence separating our patio from our neighbor’s. In that little patch of soil, we were able to grow about six cherry tomato plants and a few cucumbers. Given its small size, the garden didn’t require a very large investment of time or money – but it gave us tons of produce.

Don’t let a small backyard discourage you from starting a modest garden. Even if you live in an apartment or don’t otherwise have access to an outdoor area in which to grow food, you can still keep some plants indoors, on the windowsill and such. All you need is some dirt, seeds and sunlight.

For reals!

To get started, check out the gardening section at about.com. The “Small Space & Urban Gardens” and “Container Gardening” are of specific interest to those with small or indoor garden spaces.

I wouldn’t consider myself much of a green thumb, and to be honest, we sometimes half-ass it when it comes to outdoor work. There are some weeks when we just can’t find the time to get outside and maintain the garden. Even so, we’ve had pretty decent luck. With the exception of tomatoes and peppers, we usually grow our fruits and veggies from seeds, planted right into the ground. Your (ahem) “garden variety” (i.e., non-heritage) seeds aren’t all that expensive, so it’s at least worth a try – after all, you won’t be out much money if you decide that gardening isn’t for you.

More likely, though, you’ll catch the gardening bug and plan for grander and grander gardens with each successive season. There’s really nothing quite like cultivating your own plants, nurturing them and watching them grow, eagerly awaiting their ripening, and then biting into a plump, juicy tomato that you produced all on your own. Garden to table, you know exactly where that piece of food has been: what pesticides have (or haven’t!) been sprayed on it, whether it was grown in close proximity to a livestock pasture (*cough* food poisoning *cough*), how far it traveled to grace your table. Eating locally, to the x-treme!

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Can we say vegan yumyum, or what?

Happy VeganMoFo, and an even happier World Vegetarian Day!

World Vegetarian Day, 2008

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2 Responses to “VeganMoFo, Day 1: Eating Locally (X-Treme Edition)”

  1. easyVegan.info » Blog Archive » Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty - Eat Green, Save Green Says:

    [...] your own fruits and veggies is a fun way to save some money. As I wrote in my first VeganMoFo post, there’s nothing more satisfying than cultivating the earth, planting little seedlings and [...]

  2. Maximum Consumption! Songs to Shake Your Spatula To » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    [...] and this song = my life. Or at least my autumn, when I spend most of my free time picking, peeling, coring and boiling apples to make applesauce and fruit leather. (Mmmm, strawberry-apple [...]

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