Sunday, January 25, 2009

Local = Seasonal

I was at a gathering of the Lady Rogue Business Network recently and I was spouting off as usual about growing food, local food systems, etc. During a break, one of the other members told me that she is considering joining a CSA and that she was interested in eating more seasonal food but she had know idea what foods were available in any particular season. I was a bit taken aback by this at first but, as i thought about it, i realized that since most people have no experience with farms or even gardens there is really no way for them to know unless they do some research. My first thought was that to help her i could make her a list of local fruits and vegetables in each season but i quickly saw the flaw in this. 
Here it is. Suppose she looked at my list and saw that apples are in season now. She decides to get some apples and bake an apple pie. She goes to the grocery store and buys some apples, some agave nectar, some cinnamon and a pie crust and goes home and makes a delicious pie. She invites some friends over, serves the pie and proudly tells them that they are eating a pie made with seasonal fruit. Well what she didn't know was that the apples she used were much more likely to have been grown in Washington, or New York or New Zealand than Georgia. Some stores are now labeling their produce with the location in which it was grown but you still have to make the connection between local and seasonal.
I think that most people use "seasonal" as a synonym for "local" but as we saw in the example above that may not be the case. I think that the term "seasonal" has become part of the lexicon mainly through "foodie culture" (i hate that word by the way). It sounds cooler to say "seasonal" and is used as a marketing tool by chefs and restaurants. Any vegetable or fruit that is available is in season wherever it was grown. The issue is the amount of energy required to transport the food over long distances. On average food travels 1500 miles from the place it is grown to the place where it is consumed. So, i have concluded that the term seasonal is irrelevant and muddies the water for those who are not immersed in food culture. We need to be sure our words clearly convey the meaning we intend them to. 
Local = seasonal but seasonal does not always equal local.


Barb and Steve said...

Excellent point about using "seasonal" as a selling point. I have seen it often. When I speak of growing food at work, I get blank stares. I would like to see the country get back to the "victory garden" times. It is so important to know where you food comes from, especially with all the bacterial scares that are happining in the last few years.
Keep up the good work of spreading the word.

Robbyn said...

It's been a big jump for me here in Florida adapting to an entirely different mindset as far as growing seasons. I am trying so hard to be more in tune with it and the planting times but don't seem to be in sync yet...arghh :) oh the learning curve

San Diego Farmgirl said...

Good point about local vs. seasonal, and how funny the apple pie baker didn't know better. (Because really, it's so sad you have to laugh, right? City folks. Sheesh!)

It's melon season in Central America, but that doesn't make those month-old gourds in the grocery store tasty. But in July, at the farmer's market? Yum!

Robbyn, I feel ya, girl! SoCal is tough to master as well, though seasoned gardeners around here seem to have it down pat.

lulurugosa said...

Hi Duane! I've been buying a few things from your garden when I see Robyn set up at the Decatur organic market on Wednesday afternoons. I am eating so much better because of this. I want to know more about csa ordering that I could do online. I haven't found the link on your website- help! Mary Lou