I was surprised to learn that it was easier to find the origin of the contents of the matzo ball mix packet that I made for last Friday night's dinner than it was the Green Giant Baby Bella Mushrooms that I threw in with an frittata for Saturday's lunch. (According to Pat in customer service at Green Giant, "We would like to answer all the questions we receive about our company and our products, but regret we are unable to provide you with the information you requested.") Even though my matzo ball soup ingredients traveled from China, India, and various locations in the US, I somehow feel more confident in consuming that then the international mystery mushrooms.
Not only have I learned about where the soy in my locally-produced tofu comes from (southern Michigan), it has been a treat to learn more about the local food economy as I look for new sources for items like butter and grains. There are, apparently, some farmers who sell entirely by word-of-mouth, with no interest in advertizing or other traditional routes for sale. Fed up with the disfunctional food systems, they are content to work on an alternative economy of barter and trade, and have little interest in selling to grocers who treat food solely as commodity rather than sustenance.
Michael Pollan, in The Omnivore's dilemma, speaks eloquently about a local food economy:
...A successful local food economy implies not only a new kind of food producer, but a new kind of eater as well, one who regards finding, preparing, and preserving food as one of the pleasures of life rather than a chore. One whose sense of taste has ruined him for a Big Mac, and whose sense of place has ruined him for shopping for groceries at Wal-Mart. This is the consumer who understands--or remembers--that, in Wendell Berry's memorable phrase, "Eating is an agricultural act." He might have added that it's a political act as well.I believe that this experiment will alter my food choices in the future. Already, the Watershed Diet has lead my mouth to water with the thought of local fresh foods. I have come to a point where the flavor of the food is enhanced by the story behind them. Later today, I will pick up my CSA share and learn the narrative of the vegetables' care, all while supporting a bright young couple who make a living by feeding Northwest Lower Michigan healthy foods. It is a bit more satisfying than a trip to the grocery store.