Dark Days Challenge: Intro

So, as previously mentioned, we are aiming to do the 3rd Annual Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge (!) aka Dark Days. The challenge is to eat one meal per week that’s as Sustainable, Organic, Local, and Ethical as possible — for the whole winter pretty much! November 15 to March 31.

One of the things I feel compelled to do to start with is to 1) rearrange the criteria and 2) define “local” and our exceptions.

Because we tried (and mostly failed) to grow commercially this year as well as for ourselves, my first stop on this project would be to have the meal be as homegrown as possible. This year was our first year raising poultry for meat so it’s exciting to be able to have a complete meal grown by hand (since I can’t grow enough soy to make tofu, yet if ever, so local vegetarianism is still out). But, on account of how we mostly failed, I also need to learn to be easy enough on myself to move on to my next criterion — Local. We are fortunate to have lots of farmers within a 20-mile radius at the Bainbridge Island Farmers’ Market and winter market, and even more within a 100-mile radius if we make it over to Seattle for the U-District or Ballard markets. And we are even more fortunate to know many of our favorite farmers personally, and even when we don’t, to have enough visibility into their methods to be completely confident in the ethics and the sustainability of their products, even if they aren’t certified Organic (now a USDA-owned term that doesn’t mean too much to me at all, really).

So — I’m going with Homegrown, Local, Ethical (re: animal welfare, labor practices, and land use) and Sustainable (re: labor practices, land use, and economic viability), Organic. (HLESO isn’t as nice as SOLE though.)

The other question is — what does local mean? What are our exceptions?

Laura says:

What does local mean?
Traditionally, local food challenges call for a 100 mile radius. Winter time is more difficult in many climates, especially if you’re new to eating locally, so my default definition is 150 miles. You can choose to make your radius smaller or slightly larger as you need. Typical exceptions are oils, coffee, chocolate and spices. If you’re making fewer or more exceptions, please note that on your first post.


Our 100-mile radius

We’re in a bit of a strange but sweet spot as we are in the middle of Puget Sound — our 100 miles includes a good deal of water (yay seafood) but also quite a lot of very good farmland, including our most excellent dairy, Fresh Breeze Organic from Lynden, WA. Of course we get all our local B.I. farms as well as Skagit River Ranch, Nash’s Organic Produce, and Bluebird Grains (yay farro!!). We don’t get quite to Wenatchee or to Okanagan, where a lot of good summer fruits come from, but that’s OK as it’s not summer. I wish we reached Alvarez Farms, where we could get beans and peanuts. I guess if we did 150 miles we could …

So — I’m aiming for 100 as ideal, 150 as a fantastic compromise … we’ll see.

Our regular exceptions shall be:

  • olive oil; other oils (butter will be within 100 miles)
  • salt & pepper — still looking for ways to make these
  • wine will often be from close to home, but not always — assume it’s not; we’ll note when it is
  • vinegar, until we learn to make our own
  • citrus, as needed for taste that is not vinegar-y (I had lemon trees but they died, and the turkeys ate the lime tree)
  • baking goods
    • our organic flour comes from Utah
    • our organic sugar comes from Hawaii
    • our various other ingredients and flavorings are organic, and their origins will be described as appropriate (but most come from Bob’s Red Mill)

I am sure there are more additions and refinements to come, but for now … to bed.

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