Molnar: Localvore Dilemma

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(Host) Shopping for food used to be simple. But since moving to Vermont
in 2008, this ordinary task has become highly complex, says commentator
Martha Molnar, a public relations professional and writer.

Once I could walk into a grocery store and buy what I needed, looking
for freshness and trying to save where I could. It was in and out, fast
and efficient.

Then we moved to Vermont , and shopping for food
became a mission complicated by ethical, health, environmental and
economic considerations. Now it’s neither fast nor efficient.

transformation evolved as we became caught up in the localvore
movement. Local food, which was a faint hum in our New York City suburb,
is a thunderous drumroll in Vermont .

It started with one of my
fantasies coming true. Our property has endless sunshine, encouraging
serious gardening. Each year the vegetable beds expanded, and now I grow
enough to feed us through fall. But when the bounty ends, it’s hard to
face the sad supermarket produce.

When a yearning for meat set
in, easy answers appeared. Our neighbor raises chickens and turkeys that
wander around seemingly happy throughout their lives. At the Rutland
Farmers Market I found beef from the cheerfully grazing cows we pass
driving north. Both cost considerably more than supermarket meat, but
encouraged by the culture around us, we became committed to consuming
only happy animals.

Still, the grocery store remains a mainstay
for things like fish, and orange juice, and in winter, fresh fruits that
require fewer than thousands of miles to transport. And it’s a place
fraught with complex issues.

Fish is one example. I carry a list
that’s supposed to make it easy to make the environmentally correct and
healthy choice. Problem is, there are three columns of bad choices, and
every fish in front of me fits into one of them. It’s either filled
with mercury and therefore bad for us; or it’s a species that’s being
overfished, so it’s bad for the fish; or it’s farm-raised, and thus bad
for the oceans. I stand in front of the fish counter paralyzed with
indecision. I could try the fish store, but that means extra driving and
burning more fossil fuel. Veggie burgers, I finally decide, will be
delicious sautéed in garlic butter.

Even orange juice presents a
quandary. It used to be sold in cardboard containers that disintegrated
in the landfills. I don’t know when these containers were deemed
unsuitable – nobody consulted me – but the result is that OJ now comes
in plastic or glass containers, which take energy to produce and recycle
– assuming our careful winnowing of the trash is not undone at some
point along the long path to the factory.

Recycling presents
more puzzles – like the environmental cost of the hot water used to wash
a greasy mayonnaise jar. I feel compelled to wash it, since something
prevents me from throwing a jar with moldy remains into the bin. And
then there’s the dilemma of organic, free-range eggs that come in
plastic cartons versus ordinary eggs in cardboard packaging.

All this confusion – and I haven’t even weighed in on the Green Mountain College oxen!

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