Tracking Food is Messy

I am what I eat. And, because I am what I eat, I want to know what I am. And, what I’m eating.

Say that three times fast.

Since we started eating foods grown or raised within 100 miles of Portland, Oregon every other week, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to farmers, ranchers and butchers. Since the markets that we shop do not have the local food information we need, I have turned directly to my community to help ensure that what I eat is grown or raised within 100 miles. Our experience is that markets only know the location of their foods’ distributor, not necessarily the producer’s location.

This picture above is messy and discovering where my food comes from shouldn’t be messy. Messiness creases unsafe conditions. Think trying to get to your desk at home when the floor is strewn with laundry and other junk. Think breaking a jar of pickles trying to reach the mustard in the back of the fridge.

Here is a great video about how messy tracking food can be from PBS.
PBS report on tracking food

When middle people are added to the food equation, the messines factor goes up. Since I am what I eat, I will not take any chances.

Here are two recent examples of how distributors can contribute to decreasing foods’ safety. Pepperoni lovers: beware.
January 28, 2010
February 4, 2010
Spend 5 minutes on this site. It is unnerving.

I want to know where my food comes from so I can know exactly what’s going into my body. Knowing where my food comes from helps increase the safety of the food and consequently my body. I do enough bad things to my body; I don’t want food to be one of them.

So far, we’ve not found wheat grown within 100 miles of Portland. And, we love bread and cookies, so this is a problem. However, we have connected with Karl Kupers from Shepherd’s Grain Farm who grows wheat in eastern Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Farms growing Wheat for Shepherd's Grain Farm

I called Karl to see which bakeries buy his flour since I have friends who want to buy baked goods with wheat grown closer to home. Karl gave me a few places to try but could not give me a complete list because the distributors and producers are separated. There is no synergy between the two groups. They do not play nice in the sand box. What could be a mutually beneficial relationship that makes money turns into a nightmare for the consumer trying to be educated about where their food grows.

Here are a few places we know use Shepherd’s Grain products.
1. Hot Lips Pizza
2. Cascade Baking in Salem
3. Grand Central Bakery
4. St. Honore Bakery
5. Gabriele’s Bakery
6. Pearl Bakery

Right now, I have the time to do the research. Since I am what I eat, using my time researching is important to me. I may not always have this time and I am thankful to start this habit so when we have crazy weeks, I will be armed with the right information.

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8 responses to “Tracking Food is Messy

  1. Can you buy Shepards Grain wheat flour in a bag for baking bread at home?

  2. I think its great that there are places that you already frequent like Hot Lips pizza and the St. Honere bakery that are using this wheat. Very cool. You are learning so much from this experiment. Is it still an experiment? Or is this now your way? Do I have to shop/cook differently for you now? Are you one of THOSE?

    • Yes, this is still an experiment. We don’t know enough yet to be full time. Wheat is still a challenge to find and we are discovering great alternatives–like Shepherd’s Grain flour. WSU and Shepherd’s Grain are working together by the way to increase and diversify production. Nope, you will not have to shop or cook differently for me ever. I promise!

  3. Kelly, this is great. I can’t find wheat within 100 miles of me either but it does grow 174 miles from me. There is no way we could go grain free so that is my compromise.

    How far are you from Dufur, OR? Because Azure Standard has a large organic farm there and they grow their own grains, they even mill and make their own pasta and that is my closest pasta maker.

    In order to make this experiment become permanent thoughtful eating (which you have clearly done) you need to cut yourself some slack and do the best you can. After a year I finally broke down and bought rice from California. As far as I know it’s the closest rice I can get. For me the big question is if there is a good system in place for distribution (to minimize me ordering things online and then they are shipped specially to me) and if that is the closest, most eco-minded producer.

    What I do NOT want to do is buy something from an organic processed food plant, even if they are close to me. I have no problem buying pure inputs grown responsibly outside my local area. Even those organic companies are using inputs that are not organic and not healthy, not to mention the energy going into producing said “natural” yet not found in nature ingredients and packaging.

    I try to envision that the stage coach comes once a month and my job is to plan for all the ingredients we need to make our own of anything.

    Now how creepy is the idea of buying black pepper as an input that contains salmonella? I’m planning to plant my own black pepper plant this spring since I’ve been told they produce in my climate but it’s always possible that something I grow for us will make us sick too. Just not quite as likely.

    Love your blog!

  4. It’s amazing how many of my neighbors have asked me to come chat about where they can put food in or walk by the garden even in winter to see what is growing (lots!) It’s an amazing common thread that brings people together. Boy did we shake things up by taking out the lawn (the only ones, houses all set back same from stree, same floor plan since it’s the old WWII officer’s housing for a nearby but shutdown naval base now public housing.)

    We all have little cottages and big yards and that big yard is finally being put to good use!

    I’m so glad it inspired you to ditch the food man a little bit more. ;p

  5. Pingback: Examine the Food Chain « You Are What I Eat

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