HOW TO LIVE OFF THE LAND

Rich Cookson, The Independent
Could you survive only on local produce? As the Government urges us to help reduce Britain’s spiralling food miles total, Rich Cookson spends two weeks without salt or sugar, tea or coffee, wine, pasta – or chocolate
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If there’s an ancient art to preparing rabbit, I’d like to be in on it. I’ll spare you the details, but my kitchen looks like something out of a horror movie and the rabbit liver has just slipped off the chopping board and on to the floor – it’s more like Reservoir Dogs than River Cottage.

Still, food doesn’t come much more local than this. My rabbit was shot a few fields away and the vegetables were grown just eight miles down the road. The delicious, thick, creamy milk that will go into my mashed potato came free from a friendly farmer this morning. In a couple of hours, there’ll be a steaming bowl of delicious and wholly local rabbit stew and mash on the table.

The food we eat is travelling further than ever to get to our plates. A recent government report revealed that the food eaten in Britain travelled a staggering 30 billion kilometres in 2002. The study, from the Department for Farming and Rural Affairs, also found that the amount of food transported by lorries has doubled since 1974, and now accounts for a quarter of all miles travelled by HGVs in the UK.

The phenomenal grown of supermarkets, with their centralised distribution systems and out-of-town locations, is partly to blame. But they rightly say they’re only responding to demand: many of us want to eat strawberries and tomatoes all year round, without thinking too much about where they come from.

The report pointed out that each of us now travels an average of 136 miles a year by car to shop for food, and the combined environmental and social costs of all these food miles is about £9bn a year. Launching the report, the Sustainable Food and Farming Minister, Lord Bach, said that the issue was “complex and that a range of factors have an effect on the overall impacts of food transport, not purely the distance travelled by individual products… [but] buying local products has the potential to greatly reduce the distance food is transported.”

So just how local is it possible to go? Styling myself as Somerset’s answer to Morgan Spurlock – the US film-maker who ate nothing but McDonald’s for a month and made a documentary about the grizzly consequences – I set out to live ultra-locally for two weeks. The golden rule is simple: I can only eat food grown, reared or hunted within 10 miles of my house.
(5 December 2005)

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Eating within a 10 mile radius of the homestead in Pasadena would certainly be a challenge especially for a family. Fortunately, on one side of the radius we have the San Gabriel Mountains and Arroyo Seco nearby where one could forage and hunt. As for the rest, nothing but buildings, houses, freeways and concrete

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  1. shannon says:

    There are two really wonderful books on this subject here is the US. one is called This Organic Life by Joan Dye Gussow and the other is called Coming Home To Eat. They are both pretty amazing, one being an east coast version of PTF and the other an Arizona man, who set a 250 mile limit that he could aquire food in. Two very climits but both found success. I highly recommend these books.

  2. Jamie says:

    A few months ago when the net was proposing an eat local challange to eat food within 100miles, I was dissapppinted to find meat or poulty was not easily avalable.I learned though Calif. does grow rice but it is 443 miles from home. Even if the effort is made to buy from farmers makets, a lot of those farmers are going from miles away, bakersfield, etc. SO unless you grow it yourself or forge ( which is an excellent idea provided what you are forging isnt protected nad it is plentiful) we here in the city are pretty much out of luck..

  3. stella says:

    coming home to eat was an excellent book!

    it is great that around the world, people are starting to open their eyes to what a toll it is taking to bring in the major food supply. i think the recent disasters are helping to see how delicate the balance is right now and the dire need to start eating local.

  4. gerry medland says:

    Well done Anais!The article showcased is about what we have known for ages,there is an awakening in Britain and it will lead to a radical change in how we live,work and eat!The Independant is at the forefront in publishing in this country,it lives up to it’s title,it tells it how it is!We need to ACT ourselves and spread the food miles info to all who will listen.Britain imports more food now(along with fuel and other items)Than at any other time in its history!

  5. JBB says:

    I read this quote at Sugar Creek Farm http://sugarcreekfarm.net/ from the cookbook Simply in Season:

    “If I had to put what I believe about food and the environment into two words of advice, I would say this: Celebrate hope.

    “If you can find a farm, a market, a store where you can see that love for the earth and for future generations is a priority, sell all that you have and buy their food. If you can find friendly faces in your local food system who are willing to go beyond public relations and discuss tough questions, hug them! If you can smell the Spirit of God on their sweet potatoes, buy 20 pounds! Eat these potatoes with gusto, thanking God that someone, somewhere has a vision.

    “You are not consistent in all areas of your life? Lord have mercy on you, a sinner: act on one little thing you know. You can only afford one holy sweet potato and the rest is boxed macaroni and cheese? Act on what you can afford. You will love that sweet potato and the earth that grew it even more.”

    – Jennifer Schrock; Goshen, Ind.

  6. Anais says:

    Thanks for all your wonderful comments and resources.

    Jamie – I agree for us So Cal folks our pretty much out of luck due to the present circumstances of the LA environment (or lack thereof)

    It will be up to homeowners to ban together to produce food for one another.