Locavores Galore!

We’ve all heard of carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores, but a lesser known classification of eaters are the locavores. According to Merriam-Webster, a locavore is “one who eats foods grown/raised locally whenever possible”. Often times “locally” is considered to be within a one hundred mile radius of your residence. (but can be flexible depending on your situation)

What’s the problem with food from a land far, far away?

First of all, moving food across the country or even across oceans takes lots of energy! There is also a lot of processing, packaging and chemical application to keep food fresh as it flies over vast oceans, drives across grassy plains, and is trucked along to your grocery store. Let’s compare the amount of CO2 produced per pound of apples during transportation from a conventional supplier and from a farmers market as an example.

Washington state produces two-thirds of the country’s apples, so when you buy an apple at the grocery store it is very likely that it is coming from Washington. The journey to transport apples from Washington to New Jersey is 2,810 miles. A typical refrigerated truck has a fuel efficiency of four to eight miles per gallon. This means that 351 gallons of fossil fuels are burned, resulting in the release of 7,025 pounds of CO2. (each gallon of gasoline produces about 20 pounds of CO2) Now let’s see how much CO2 per pound of apples that is if we assume that the truck contains only apples. A typical refrigerated truck can hold 44,000 pounds. Therefore each pound of apples produces 0.16 pounds of CO2. Instead, lets say that you walk or bike to your local farmers market and buy apples from a farm that is 15 miles from the market. The farmer has a standard pickup truck with a fuel efficiency of 20 miles per gallon, therefore it uses 0.75 gallons of gas. This is the equivalent of 15 pounds of C)2. It can hold up to 1,000 pounds of apples, so its apples produce 0.00075 pounds of CO2 per pound of apples. The difference between 0.00075 and 0.16 is a factor of over 200!! (See sources at the end of the blog to see where I got these numbers)

Additionally, the apples from Washington will take approximately two days of driving, plus at least one day of sorting and unloading to reach you. Then they will sit for over a week in the produce aisle. Therefore it is highly possible that you are buying week old apples that are going to go bad rather quickly. Farmers market apples have been picked one or two days before and have not been sitting out for any more than a few hours at the time of your purchase. This gives nearly an extra week of freshness to your produce without any processing, packaging, or chemicals. It also puts you more in touch with the growing season in your area. A strict locavore from the Northeast will appreciate berries in the summer much more than someone who has been purchasing imported berries all winter.

The last problem with food from far away is that you don’t know how your food was grown and who grew it. Were the workers who picked your apples being treated well and being paid a fair wage? Are the farming methods used on the orchard sustainable? While these questions may be very difficult to answer in regards to a grocery store bought apple, they are easy to find out from a farmer working her apple stand at a farmers market. Often small farmers are more willing and interested to rely on organic methods of growing crops because it is a more sustainable practice that allows them to grow successfully for years to come. For this reason, there is greater attention paid to using compost as a fertilizer and crop rotation to keep soil quality high as well as genetic diversity among the varieties of produce. To promote this, traditional heirloom crops with unique flavors are often found at farmers markets and small farm stands. As an added bonus, being at a farmers market brings communities who are interested in the quality of their food and the health of their environment together for a more personal shopping experience than at a grocery store.

Heirloom Tomatoes come in many eye-popping colors.

Heirloom Tomatoes come in many eye-popping colors. Credit to: http://free-stock-illustration.com/types+of+heirloom+tomatoes 

The Princeton Locavore

Hooked on eating local yet? As a student there are some clear challenges with trying to become a locavore (AKA the dining hall, being part of an eating club, not having access to a car). However, pushing your eating club or dining hall to source their foods locally is a great start. Dining Services already buys about half of their food from within 250 miles of the University. Check out some of their other sustainability accomplishments here: http://www.princeton.edu/us/dining/sustain/purchase/ Mathey’s Real Food Co-op strives to bring sustainable foods to its members and buys some of their produce from the Forbes Garden.

Sustainable Dining at Princeton University

Sustainable Dining at Princeton University

You can support locally made food when you go to Nassau Street by going to Halo Pub or Mediterra among others. You can also order local seasonal specialties that are often featured at restaurants. Instead of the U-Store try going to the Princeton Farmer’s Market on Thursdays in front of the Princeton Public Library to get snacks. It is a great way to meet and support local farmers and cooks. (http://www.princetonfarmersmarket.com/)

Princeton Farmers Market

Princeton Farmers Market

If you are here for a summer you may want to consider joining the Cherry Grove Organic Farm CSA (only three miles south of Princeton!) or Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. To participate you pay a fee at the beginning of the growing season, which lasts from June until November to receive fresh produce each week. Some farms, such as Cherry Grove, ask that you drive to pick up your food, while others, such as Honey Brook, have a refrigerated truck which they use to make deliveries. CSA’s and co-ops are becoming more and more common, so if you live anywhere in NJ check out this listing to find a CSA that works for you: http://jerseyfresh.nj.gov/find/communitysupportedag.html

Happy eating, locavores!

Sources:

Apple Statistics: http://www.usapple.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=179&Itemid=285

Distance from Washington to NJ: https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=distance%20from%20washington%20state%20to%20nj

Fuel Efficiencies of trucks: http://cta.ornl.gov/vtmarketreport/pdf/chapter3_heavy_trucks.pdf

How many pounds of CO2 is produced from burning gasoline: http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=307&t=11

Information about apple packaging: http://www.tis-gdv.de/tis_e/ware/obst/apfel/apfel.htm#transport

Refrigerated truck specs: file:///Users/lindseyconlan/Downloads/TruckloadEquipmentGuide.pdf

Changing tons to pounds: https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=ton+to+pounds

Changing feet to meters: https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=feet%20cubed%20to%20meters%20cubed

How much weight can a pickup truck hold: http://www.rocksanddirt.com/preview_008.htm

Weeds Come In All Shapes and Sizes

This summer has been a battle against weeds of all shapes and sizes: ever crawling vines, stubborn crabgrass, an easy to pluck red-rooted variety, and last but not least, thistle. Thistle is entirely covered in small thorns that stick in your skin and can be hard to pull out because of their size. The only part safe to grab is at the very base where there are no thorns, unless you wear gloves. (But Morgan and I prefer weeding without gloves because your fingers are unencumbered and can pull out the root of the weed more easily. So gloves are a last resort when there is a lot of thistle present.) We currently have a thistle forest, think 5ft tall prickly plants with small purple flowers, at the back of the garden at 79 Alexander. We will need to tackle them to make more beds for watermelon and corn, and I’m looking forward to it. I find big projects like that in which you can see the changes you are making to the garden immediately to be very rewarding. This is why Morgan gave me the title “Mulch Princess” in a previous blog post! Seeing the garden fence that used to be lined with weeds now lined (mostly) with mulch makes me smile each time I walk in. There is still one section on the far side that we need to make time to finish up. The reason that I like mulch so much is that I look at it as preventative weed management. The wood chips make it significantly harder for weeds to grow through, and if some weeds to get through they are much easier to pull out. My mom and I made a flower bed on the left of the fence to match the one we had on the right. We transplanted the tiger lilies that we found already at the garden, and added cone flowers, daisies and black-eyed susans from home.

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The new flower bed at the main Forbes garden. -Lindsey Conlan, Photo

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The small Forbes plot before being worked on. -Lindsey Conlan, Photo

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After weeding and turning the soil. -Lindsay Conlan, Photo

Last week I started my biggest weed battle to date. At the small garden plot next to Forbes there are small trees starting to grow inside the garden. Their woody stem and roots are near impossible to remove! For an hour I dug out sections of the roots and pulled at the stem with no luck. A heavy down pour started so I left because digging in the mud was increasingly difficult. There are at least five more weeds of similar proportions and one much larger. This week I found a small pull saw and was able to cut down the stems and cut out most of their roots as I turned the soil. It is now all ready for planting!

Another, very different variety of weeds inhabits the Frist garden: ground cover weeds. These small buggers don’t grow tall, instead they grow wide. Taking over all the spaces between herb patches, making gardeners confused as to which green thing to pull, and causing an overgrown appearance. Currently the Frist garden is in need of a renovation as Morgan mentioned in her last blog post. I drew up a rough plan as to what that garden could look like if we purchased some river stone and organized the herbs better. I am very excited by the prospect of it becoming a highly usable and aesthetically pleasing space. Morgan and I also think it would be great to add some flowers along the back that attract butterflies to the garden. Some of these flowers include milkweed, marigold, and cone flowers. This should attract butterflies such as the Monarch and varieties of swallowtail.

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-Lindsey Conlan