Could you eat a diet consisting of only local food? Im not talking about the food you buy in a local store. I mean truly local, seasonal food direct from a farm or food producer? Well that’s what Lisa Fingleton asked herself and set about doing over 3 years ago……
Tell us a little about you:
I am an artist, writer and grower. I live with my partner Rena Blake on an organic farm near the sea in Ballybunion. I am passionate about eating local food and the power of communities to live sustainably in harmony with nature.
How did the 30 day local food project come about?
One day I bought a BLT sandwich in a petrol station and I couldn’t believe that there were over 40 listed ingredients from all over the world including such things as Diglycerides of Fatty Acids, xanthan gum, emulsifier and stabilisers.
I started to think about the journey of a sandwich and where all these ingredients come from. It felt like this sandwich connected me to so many places, people, plants and animals from all over the planet. I started to think about the energy needed to bring this sandwich to me; all the electricity, fuel and water. It makes me sad that food, which lands on our plate, has travelled thousands of miles just to be eaten by us. I had been to Borneo and seen the destruction of the rainforest with palm oil plantations and here was palm oil in my sandwich.
I learned a lot from that BLT. It made me question if there is really any such a thing as ‘cheap food’? Someone, somewhere is paying the price in terms of poor conditions for workers, crowded conditions for battery hens or health implications for the consumers of processed foods.
I am concerned about the fact that we are importing so much of our food and losing the capacity to be self sufficient, despite what we know about climate change and carbon footprint. According to Eurostats 2016 “Only 1% of Irish farms grow vegetables, the lowest in the EU” (Agriland headline)
Rather than getting bogged down in doing nothing, I started the 30 Day Local Food Challenge, encouraging people to eat local food for the month September each year. We ate only ingredients grown on the island of Ireland so that meant doing without imported goods such as sugar, bananas, chocolate and other luxuries to which we have become accustomed! It’s a great way to eat good food, support local food producers and become more sustainable and resilient. Groups around the country started inviting me to give talks and workshops on eating local food. It wasn’t possible to meet everyone, so I decided to write a book that could share the learning. Afterall I am based in North Kerry, the home of writing, so why not write a book?
How does it work, what’s involved?
Really its about building community resilience and taking action around food sovereignty and climate change:
Read an in depth description by Lisa here:
What was the biggest challenge you and others have faced on this journey?
On a personal level I didn’t realise how much I was addicted to sugar. That was by far the biggest challenge. For me it was much easier when I was at home because we grow all our own fruit and vegetables. If you are relying on ‘convenience’ stores it is far from convenient as almost every single product is imported. I think it is eye opening to see how dependent we are on imports. By actually trying to eat local food that becomes really really clear.
Based on your experience, how feasible do you think it is to eat local 365 days of the year?
I think we would need a huge policy and attitude change before we could feed ourselves. After 4 days of snow this year our food was already starting to become an issue and you could literally see this on the shelves. The reality is that only ‘1% of our farms grow vegetable, the lowest in the EU’ (Eurostats 2016- Agriland heading) so we simply do not grow food. If we made it public policy that all food served in schools and hospitals had to be sourced from organic farms within a local radius that would have an immediate and radical impact (like it did in Copenhagen)
What was the most enjoyable part of the 30 day challenge?
The generosity of other people was astonishing and their enthusiasm for getting involved.
You’ve recently published a book sharing your story and that of the 30 day local food challenge…what can people expect?
I did the first 30 day local food project in 2015 because I was shocked at how little vegetables we were growing in Ireland and want to highlight a simple action we could take. I think it’s important to take action rather than becoming immobilised by fear or a sense of despair. As Mahatma Gandhi says – we must be the change we wish to see in the world. I am delighted the book will be launched at the Listowel Food Fair. The book explores the power of growing and eating local food. Incorporating drawings, photography and text, the book is the culmination of three years of work. It has lots of ideas for action.
At foodture, we use the term food citizens, what does food citizenship mean to you?
Having a shared sense of vision and common purpose. Being willing to rise above ego and concern for ourselves and being more concerned about the bigger picture.
What advice do you have for citizens starting their own journey reconnecting with food and farmers?
Think LOAF (Support local, organic, animal friendly and fair trade) where you can. Grow your own food or support others who do. Link in with others through growing groups and allotments. Share learning and enjoy being in nature