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A New Thanksgiving Tradition

Written by Julee Mitchell
    Thursday, 14 November 2019
A New Thanksgiving Tradition

Thanksgiving is the busiest time of year for travel in the United States. Last year, over 50 million Americans traveled on average 50 miles to reach their Thanksgiving destination, and nearly 90% was by automobile. But, people aren’t the only ones logging in the miles. American food travels an average of 1,500 to 2,500 miles from farm to table, according to the Worldwatch Institute.

When we buy a bag of potatoes or bunch of carrots, we often don’t think about the fact that it came from agribusiness monopolies that ship, trade, and process food 2,000-3,000 miles away or the effect this has on the environment. In his book Home Grown: The Case for Local Food in a Global Market, Brian Halweil, says, “We are spending far more energy to get food to the table than the energy we get from eating the food. A head of lettuce grown in the Salinas Valley of California and shipped nearly 3,000 miles to Washington, D.C., requires about 36 times as much fossil fuel energy in transport as it provides in food energy when it arrives."

In addition to the huge quantities of fuel used for transportation that is contributing to global warming, long-distance food sources may be less nutritious. In order to survive the long-distances, these foods must be harvested prematurely which prevents some of their nutrients from ever forming and to even further delay the ripening process many foods are treated with special gasses, which also affects their ability to form nutrients.
Our dependence on long distance food is contributing to global warming, but what can we do about it?

Eat local!

Locally produced and consumed food takes less imported oil to produce and transport and is typically healthier for you all around. Small farms are in tune with the seasons and grow varieties that do well in the local climate. Sustainable farmers who sell directly to local consumers don’t need to bother with packaging, shipping or shelf life. They also tend to use fewer chemicals than large factory farms even when they aren’t certified organic.

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Little by little we can change our habits and by supporting local farmers we’re not only practicing sustainability, but we’re also growing our local economy. This Thanksgiving I’m going to shop at stores such as Pete’s Fruit Market and Outpost Natural Foods and buy at least two locally grown vegetables or fruits to make sides or dessert. Since my family isn’t fond of turkey, I’m going to buy a ham from one of the Wisconsin farms listed on the Eat Wild website. Another great on-line resource is Local Harvest. Here you’ll find information about local CSAs, farmer’s markets, farms and much more.

It may be a bit more time consuming to seek out sustainable food sources, but it causes us to think about where our food comes from and the distance it must travel to reach our table. Perhaps you’ll join me this year and incorporate some locally sourced foods into your harvest feast, it might even become a new Thanksgiving tradition!

Julee Mitchell

Julee Mitchell

Julee works in the UEC Development Department where she strives to keep accurate records of donors and members. Before being hired as a staff member, Julee was an avid volunteer at the UEC helping with community events and programs. She has a graduate degree in Urban Planning from UW-Milwaukee and has a passion for sustainability. She enjoys travel, outdoor sports and leisure, yoga and spending time with her children. Her hobbies include organic gardening and keeping backyard chickens on her urban homestead.

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