As the daughter and son-in-law of the Dane County Farmers' Market manager, Jen and Scott Lynch know a few things about eating local. Besides weekly visits to the market, they keep a small garden, glean (with permission) from neighborhood apple trees and grapevines, and barter for local ingredients with bread baked in their wood-fired oven.
Recently though, they kicked their commitment up a notch and joined the growing numbers of Americans who have gone on a 100% local-foods diet. For the month of August the Lynch family, which includes 7-year-old Evie, has consumed only foods grown or produced within a 100-mile radius of Madison.
Daily progress reports are available on their blog , as are all kinds of reasons and resources for eating locally.
What were the goals of your local foods diet?
Jen: To see if it was possible. To spread the word about why eating locally is important.
Scott: To learn what foods can be produced here but are not because the invisible hand of the market has decided they are better grown somewhere else.
What's the yummiest dish you ate all month?
Scott: We made some wicked pancakes with the new sour cream from Sugar River Dairy. The Willow Creek bacon on the side is so good that we literally moan when we eat it. Fresh cider from Ela Orchard makes it perfect.
Jen: Homemade tortillas with cheese, jalapeños, tomatoes and onions.
Evie: The sour cream pancakes.
Were there any foods you ate that you hadn't expected to be produced locally?
Scott: Our favorite brand of seltzer water just happens to come from Watertown.
Jen: Peanuts. I knew they could grow here but we found Sylvan Disch at the farmers' market growing them. Hurrah! I can have my peanut butter.
In your blog, you mention craving coffee, chocolate and white flour. What else did you miss?
Scott: Limes for marinating, balsamic vinegar and all sorts of cooking oils. We were cooking everything in lard, bacon grease or butter. Sometimes you feel like you don't have enough to eat, but when everything is cooked in bacon grease there is not much chance you will waste away.
Evie: Vanilla. Ketchup.
Jen: Coffee says it all.
Any surprises or insights from the past month?
Jen: How quickly 100-mile eating has come to seem routine. It no longer seems to require so much effort, and we have lots of choices.
Evie: Kids can help grow vegetables and can go to farmers' markets and buy fresh food and take it wherever they go. It's not hard to eat like this.
What advice do you have for others who want to do a similar challenge?
Scott: Grow a pot of as many herbs as you can find. Track down a local cooking oil if you can, and if not, start saving bacon grease. See if you can get some home-brewed beer that is as close to 100% local as possible. And if you are really hard-core, consider making some soy sauce.
Jen: Plan ahead! Make grain products ahead of time, stockpile nuts. Preserve food.
What from the experiment will you incorporate into "real life"?
Jen: I think we'll make an even stronger effort to support local businesses that produce food here, even if the ingredients come from elsewhere.
Scott: We'll put a lot more thought into the origin of things we choose to buy.
Did the experiment yield any unexpected or notable side benefits?
Jen: I will admit I sleep more soundly without the caffeine, and from being tired from processing food all the time.
Scott: I have become both smarter and better looking...but seriously, I have a much greater appreciation for the cost of food.
Do try this at home
Don't think you can swing a 100% local food diet for a month? How about 10% for 10 days? From Sept. 14 to 23, participants in the Wisconsin Eat Local Challenge will spend at least one-tenth of their food budget on locally grown edibles. To sign on or learn more, visit www.cias.wisc.edu/eatlocal.