3 Reasons to Buy Local for Your Thanksgiving Dinner
There will be no marshmallows atop our sweet potato casserole this Thanksgiving. No cranberry sauce on our table. No French wine in our glasses.
If you’re feeling sorry for us, stop. While we may be taking some liberties with the traditional holiday menu, we won’t be sacrificing any of the delicious decadence of a Thanksgiving meal.
While we may be taking some liberties with the traditional holiday menu, we won’t be sacrificing any of the delicious decadence of a Thanksgiving meal. Photo credit: Emma Huvos
What we will be doing is sharing a meal that is as good for our bodies, our community and our planet as it is delicious.
How? By eating locally.
As an expression of gratitude for the food that nourishes us and the farmers who produce it (and in the spirit of embracing quests), I’m embarking on a quest of my own: Project Local Thanksgiving. This year the ingredients used in our Thanksgiving meal will all have been produced within a 30-mile radius of our home.
Think I’m crazy? Here are three reasons why a local Thanksgiving makes sense:
1. Local Food is Good Food
“Good food depends almost entirely on good ingredients.” — Alice Waters, chef and owner of Chez Panisse
Eating locally is hands down the easiest way to ensure that your diet is simultaneously delicious, healthy and ethical.
When the majority of your diet is comprised of local food sources, you’re highly unlikely to be consuming many processed foods or chemical additives. What’s more, eating locally is by nature eating seasonally, so what you’re getting is practically guaranteed to be fresh and flavorful (unlike those sad, tasteless grocery store tomatoes).
2. Local Food Supports Local Economies
“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” — Anna Lappé, author and educator
When you buy local food, you support local farms and businesses by putting money into the pockets of real, hardworking people instead of faceless corporations. You also have the opportunity to see firsthand where your food is coming from and confirm that the farmer is using practices that align with your ethics — whether that means free-range poultry, grass-fed meat, organic produce or fair wages for farm workers.
3. Local Food is Ecofriendly
“Each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles. If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by more than 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.” — Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
At this point most of us are familiar with the idea that our dietary choices have a profound impact on our carbon footprint. No matter how healthy your diet may be, if you’re relying on food sources shipped in from half a world away, you aren’t doing the environment any favors. Whatever your dietary preferences are, sourcing your food locally and eating with the seasons will help reduce your carbon footprint.
Ready to go local?
Aside from all the logical arguments I can make in favor of local food, there are emotional factors at play as well. Simply put, there is something magical about eating food raised within miles of your home, by people you know, on farms you have visited. It is an experience the feeds both body and soul.
So yeah, I might be a little jealous of all you New Englanders who can rightfully claim cranberry sauce as a local dish. But mostly I’m just excited.
I’m excited to spend the next month on a quest for the most delicious local food I can find. I’m excited to stretch my culinary imagination and learn some new skills (grinding my own cornmeal can’t be that hard, right?). I’m excited to visit local farms and markets and get to know my community and my bioregion, in a more meaningful way. And, when all is said and done, I’m excited to sit down and eat a really damn good meal, surrounded by the people I love.
If any of that sounded exciting to you, too, then I hope you’ll hop on the Project Local Thanksgiving bandwagon. And if you’re not ready to go all in, thats just fine. How about a modified approach. Go for a 50 or 100 mile radius instead of 30. Or ensure that one ingredient in each dish (e.g. the apples in your pie or the rosemary in your stuffing) is sourced locally. However you do it, you’ll be nourishing more than just your body this Thanksgiving.
Emma Moulton Huvos is an educator, permaculture designer and founder of The Riverside Project.
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For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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