By Jo Barker
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Feelings upon embarking on the locavore diet started to gain weight, figuratively not physically, as Holly and I sat down to chew over parameters and goals for our initial first month.
Where to start? How militantly to approach it? How large a mile radius? How to make it as painless as possible?! Were all questions raised so we started with the age old, covers all bases, brainstorm. We drew out a plate and divided it into a pie chart as to the percentage of meat, vegetables, dairy, nuts etc in each meal. This was to ensure that we would do this properly and consider all or any health implications. We settled on the most important rule that was nil by mouth if it was grown outside of 100 miles of Bristol and we would do this rigidly for 1 month at least.
For me the reasons behind this diet are numerous; supporting local farmers, reducing my carbon footprint, producing less waste but the main reason is health. As my studies in herbalism have started to change the way I look at my connection to the earth and my body I have realised in order to create a healthier environment and society, I too must be healthy. This includes eating organic, eating locally and eating a balanced and healthy range. How possible is this to do within 100 miles? I guess this is all apart of the experiment. This is also apart of my trepidation.
Trepidation to preparation.
To prepare I cannily scored myself a half price nutrition appointment though a friend who is studying nutrition - which meant sitting in front of 30 students, sounding off in minute detail about my entire life history including medical, eating, drinking, partying and accident prone habits. Sure, what a laugh...I love to perform to an audience. However after an hour listing all my lifestyle choices and then hearing the results of them, I felt a little vulnerable, guilty and to be honest was shittiing my pants.
That night I couldn’t sleep as I mulled over the implications of starting the diet as I am... deficient in Zinc, Magnesium, Omega 3 and various B Vitamins and I have also bashed up my adrenals. I am only 30 and apparently my body is severely lacking in many ways. I thought I ate pretty well and recently had been topping up my diet with medicinal tonics such as Borage for adrenal fatigue, Elderflower for immune boosting and Lemon balm for wellbeing, but still, I felt like I had failed myself somewhere. Add to this a possible drastic change in diet to come and I was feeling quite unsteady at the prospect of cutting a lot of my staples out. How much would taking bananas, avocado, rice, olive oil and oranges really effect my already depleted body?
So the next step was to write an almighty list. Enter myself circa Year 6 loaded with a plethora of Stabilo colouring pens. I drew up a chart of the vitamins I was lacking in, where I could attain these from in foods and medicinal herbs and then underlined the ones that were from within 100 miles.
Now to get book smart. For inspiration of similar projects I’ve read the Vancouver based city experience of Plenty: The 100 Mile Diet and then taking it back to the land, a rural variation in the recounted tales of a family who moved from Arizona to Kentucky to grow their own food in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Both have left me with a feeling of can do but also of oh shit… this is going to be hard.
I knew that I would need some practical advice too and so far I’ve bought myself Peirs Warren’s book on preserving. This is for the hoards of vegetables I and 6 of my friends intend to produce in the first year of our allotment. I envisage using it only twice as we novices completely forget to harvest and make so many rookie errors we’ll be lucky to get a jar of pickle out the ¼ acre site. Also, I was aware I would need something to keep positivity and perspective for the times where I would sulk beyond reason about pain au chocolat or peanut butter, so Jane Goodall’s informative and relentlessly hopeful Harvest for Hope is always close at hand.
Bristol bounty and beyond
Regarding where to get my food from I’ve started researching local producers and this has included volunteering at Sims Hill Shared Harvest, which is a CSA operating just up the road off the M32. So far I try to get there a couple of days a month to help with sowing and preparing crops to be more connected with the production of my food. I then intend to get me delivered one of them there veggie boxes each week… can’t get more local than 2 miles, I reason. For other goods such as dairy, meat and tinned food I’m volunteering with Real Economy who are setting up buying groups to link consumers with local producers using a web tool to order through and then food drop hubs in the buyer’s local areas. I’ve also looked into ingenious ways of producing food in the city such as The Bristol Fish Project who are currently setting up a warehouse in Hartcliffe for an exciting Aquaponics CSA. They aim to begin providing Bristol restaurants and consumers with fish and veggies grown from within the city limits. Also I’ve met with Amelia Lake who is making it a one woman mission to attain unused land from farmers, to then turn it into permanent forest gardens for local people. I will be following her journey for the next year as she goes from fallow to forest.
So now it’s just to start the diet. Commencing it is proving quite the challenge itself. We’ve set a date once, twice, thrice and then mumbled and hummed about the actual date since. It seems that reasons for not starting keep winning out. I got ill… twice, Holly went to Glastonbury for a month, I’m in between houses and starting out as self employed and finding it hard without a roost and routine. All these excuses are totally valid and bring up a lot of important questions about other people's ability to start such a rigorous diet, if they too have similar circumstances. However something is telling me that if we don’t just get on and do it, we might find reasons not to… forever. Most of them beginning in peanut butter and ending in avocado.