How I’ve started buying local food

As promised last week, I have been looking into how I can source as much of my families regular shopping, particular food, from local suppliers and sources.
I am doing this principally to reduce my carbon footprint further (more on that in a minute). By buying local food I’ll be more sure my money benefits the local economy (rather than being absorbed into the profits of a large corporation) and I’ll know where the food has come from and feel a closer connection with the land.

At first, I felt it was going to be a steep challenge to buy local food from local suppliers.  That nagging doubt had been what stayed my hand from taking the positive step in the first place.  It was quite easy in the end.  I’ll now be picking up meat supplies from Eastwoods Butchers (“The Best Butchers in Great Britain” as it proudly states in its window – they are good) on my way back home from working from a friends loft, which I do twice a week.  After dropping the kids off at school once per week, I’ll walk back via the Farm Shop at the Sunnyside Allotments in Northchurch, where I’ll get vegetables and eggs.  For a lot of items I’ll buy in bulk from Suma, an ethical wholesaler that the Transition Town Berkhamsted food group are using where there isn’t a local alternative.  And of course there is the allotment.

I’ll struggle to buy dairy and out-of-season fruit locally.

To figure out what I am to do, I first sat down with my wife and made a weekly shopping list.  I say sat down, it was more a whirlwind of running around after children during which a shopping list was constructed.  I then went on to the Dacorum Local Food initiative website to look at local food sources, and thought through what I can buy on my regular weekly route.

But that’s just me: there are plenty of others interested in buying local food.  With a little co-ordination, we could potentially save each other time and widen the catchment area both of food sellers and people involved in buying local.

I’m sure reading this you have a few questions.  Surely it will cost a lot more that buying from a supermarket? It will certainly take more time?  I intend to answer these questions for myself by totting up the cost of doing a price comparison – I’ll buy a weekly shop locally, and look at how much I would have paid in the local supermarket.  I’m expecting that the price for local meat and vegetables will be at the higher end of the scale (bearing in mind you can buy produce of different quality and price from a supermarket) but that for non-perishables (rice, cereal etc) the price will be lower.

As for time, I think it might actually come out lower, because I’m buying from places I’m already passing at the moment.  It’ll take about 10 minutes at the butchers and an extra maybe 20 minutes to go to the farm shop.  The bulk buying will take some up front effort in terms of choosing produce (I need to avoid nuts due to my daughter’s nut allergy) and making sure we have a place to store items safely away from rodents (in the garage).  After that initial investment of time, it will be a few minutes every so often to place another bulk order.  Given it takes about 1 hour per week to do the weekly shop at the moment, my new regime will save me a lot of time.

Then on to the main question – will my new food purchasing regime reduce my carbon footprint?  Or will I be buying food that needs more emissions to produce, because it’s being grown in regions less suited to high yields than those farther afield?  I plan to attempt this almost impossible calculation, but have not done so yet.  I do know that the food I grow on my allotment is zero carbon, because I’m making a point of not driving there.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke

Time to walk the walk

It’s all well and good blabbing on about what we need to do to sort climate change, but I’ve decided I need to starting walking the walk a bit more.  I think I’ve made some significant steps towards a lifestyle that treads more lightly on the planet, but there are certainly some further things I can do.  I’ll keep a diary here of the changes I make personally, and hopefully that will help olocal foodthers do the same.

I’ve stopped commuting and have the solar panels, so a reasonable start.

The other things I need to sort out are further energy proofing my home; avoiding using the car for local journeys (particularly for the weekly shop); greening (literally?) my diet, including buying low or zero emission food where I can’t grow it; reducing my energy use further.

I’m hoping to drag a few of the Transition Town Berkhamsted community along with me.  Is anyone out there reading this who thinks they’d like to join in remotely?  Drop me a line if you are interested.

The eco-teams initiative could help, in which a few have participated (including me).  This is where you get together with a few friends to measure your waste, energy use etc, then take steps to reduce each in turn.  Sounds boring, but actually it’s mostly gassing in the pub, and we still meet up for a curry every so often a few years down the line.  Transition Town Totnes have something similar called Transition Streets.

Or (and/or) we could run a competition to see who can do the best job of reducing their impact.  Robin Williams has suggested such for TTB – I’m up for it.

This week I’m planning to look at food – I’ll let you know how I get along.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke

PS – Happy Birthday Emma Shallcross!