How can we live in a way that is sustainable for our planet and fulfils our life potential? This may be the most significant question of our time and of our lives. In an age where green marketing is designed to help us live unsustainably for a little while longer, and the media message is that we can save the world by consuming “Green” or changing a light bulb, what choices can we make that are effective and improve our quality of life?
In 2008, my wife, Peggy, and I felt we were living as green a lifestyle as anyone we knew. We were living in a solar-powered house situated on a small lot in town. We walked and rode our bikes everywhere we could, and we ate organic food.
Then, in 2006 we took a trip to Findhorn on the northern coast of Scotland. Findhorn has always had an allure to us. A legendary place founded in the 60’s that grew cabbages in sand on the North Sea, has developed into an international conference center and spiritual community where people have been growing their own food and creating a vibrant, healthy, sustainable community for 50 years. Findhorn opened our eyes to see that our sustainable lifestyle was missing a key element: eating local, seasonal food. We understood this is the single best answer to our question of living both a sustainable and a fulfilling life.
If they could do it there, could we do it here in the Wood River Valley? At first, we didn’t think we would be able to get the variety of foods necessary, and I was very uncertain I would have the willpower to change the way I eat. But the model of health, sustainability and community we witnessed at Findhorn really inspired us. Now, after four years on a primarily local and seasonal diet, we can answer yes. It is not only possible; it is immensely fulfilling and far easier than we thought. We are leaner, healthier, living with increased vitality, and are more connected to our food, the seasons, the local growers and our community.
Last year at the Ketchum Community Development Corporation’s public workshop a cross section of our community from across all age, income, and political demographics gathered to ask the question “What is our Common Vision for a Vibrant Sustainable Community?” One of the common ground statements agreed upon unanimously by the 64 participant was a commitment to develop a practical farm-to-table food distribution network in the valley.
After some further research we were surprised to see the resources already in place. We have plenty of land with intact farms and local agriculture knowledge. There is access to good water and an ability to work with the high desert climate. There is a small but growing and committed group of farmers dedicated to planting and harvesting “real” food. There are well-established farmers’ markets in Ketchum and Hailey. Local food is available at grocery stores and specialty shops, and above all we have Idaho’s Bounty. This visionary co-op is a year-round virtual farmers market. Log on, order your food, and it is delivered to central locations in the valley every week. Idaho’s Bounty’s work in setting up this distribution network has enabled many growers to bring food to our tables 12 months of the year. It has been instrumental in educating, marketing and creating a viable food network in the Wood River Valley.
So, the basic infrastructure exists, but to be sustainable, the capacity must be built and gaps must be filled. The single biggest challenge is to grow the demand for local food. To sustain the local food growers and allow this opportunity to thrive, more of us must vote with our forks and choose local. The farmers have the ability to increase production. The distribution systems works. But, as Tanya Cobb, author of the book "The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food." and senior associate at The UVA Institute for Environmental Negotiation puts it, we need to turn consumers into “people seeking a way to create more meaningful and balanced relationships with our food and environment, our families and friends, our personal health, and with our communities.”
We need people to understand that a healthy local food economy is the basis for reviving the local economy, making it vital again. Changing the way you eat is the first step towards doing this. It is the first step on the path to a sustainable lifestyle.
What are you waiting for?
Dale Bates, co-founder of Community Rising
Local action for positive change
Personal & group transition consulting.