A Year From the Garden

Imagine growing all your own food, and what you couldn’t grow you’d buy from local organic sources. Could you do it? Would you even want to try?

That’s what Barbara Kingsolver and Steven Hopp, together with their two children, tried to do. For a year they would produce the bulk of their food on their small farm in southwestern Virginia. There were a few exemptions—coffee, for example, and olive oil—but for the most part they grew or sourced all their food locally for a year, and they wrote about it in a new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.

With the average food item traveling 1,500 miles to reach your plate, Kingsolver and Hopp are—without intending to be—part of the larger Eat Local movement, people who are trying to cut down on food miles and source their diet from closer to home. The authors note that if all Americans ate just one meal of local and organic food a week, we’d save 1.1 million barrels of oil. “When our kids are our age, the world will be so different,” Kingsolver said in an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “The way we are eating now will be impossible. … We are using our scant resources to eat tomatoes from far away in January even though we are eating tomatoes then that do not taste good.”

The book is getting glowing reviews, as Kingsolver and Hopp travel the country on a publicity tour. Though they steer away from the sanctimonious, they encourage people to look at the issues and make an effort. “[D]oing something is better than nothing,” Kingsolver says. “We encounter the notion in our culture that if you can’t do something 100 percent, then why try? But my answer to that is: my kids. That would be turning my back on my kids and turning over a very hopeless future to them.”

The family’s website offers resources and recipes for a local diet—or, as they say on the site, “livin’ la vida local.”

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