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Eating Really Local
Erica Barnett, 6 Sep 07

Forget the 100-mile diet. What's really in vogue these days is the 100-yard diet, where eating locally means eating what's in your and your neighbors' backyards. Particularly intriguing are the new breed of urban farmers, city dwellers who've made it their mission to produce most or all of their food within whatever (confined, urban, often difficult to cultivate) space is available.

Over at the Your City Farmer blog, "intrepid urban farmer" Novella Carpenter tried the 100-yard diet (a phrase she coined) for a month, subsisting on ducks, rabbits, chickens, pigs, bees, vegetables and more that she raised on a rented plot of land in Oakland, California. What I particularly love about Carpenter's blog (which she continued to write after her 30-day experiment was finished) is that it doesn't conceal the warts of farming--you hear about the gross things (rendering duck fat; cruising Dumpsters for pig feed and supplies) as well as the sublime (making nocino, a type of liquor, out of green walnuts, cinnamon, honey, and vodka.) Your City Farmer is more of a traditional diary-style blog than an informational guide, but it will inspire you to at learn more about your food and how you can produce more of it yourself; I don't know how to raise and butcher a rabbit, but now I want to find out.

Down the road in Menlo Park, California, Sunset Magazine, Food Editor Margo True and her crew of cooking and gardening experts have created a blog to document their efforts to eat a "One-block diet." Far from the strictly vegetarian asceticism you might expect from such a project, the Sunset crew is raising chickens, growing olives, and even making wine and beer on a small plot of land outside Sunset's offices. Although the tone is a little cutesy for my blood (the crew divided into "teams" with names like "Team Chicken" and "Team Beer") the practical information is incredibly helpful for anyone interested in taking their diet extremely local; who knew, for example, that baby chicks need to be kept at 90 degrees during the first days of life--or that their eyelids open from the bottom? Freaky!

Finally, in non-blog-related coverage of the urban farming/foraging movement, In These Times has an in-depth piece about the community urban agriculture movement in the United States. According to In These Times, the Community Food Security Coalition--an umbrella organization for food-policy groups--defines urban agriculture as “the growing, processing, and distribution of food and other products through intensive plant cultivation and animal husbandry in and around cities"--particularly blighted inner cities, where access to fresh, affordable food is most limited. Such areas are popularly known as "food deserts"--places like West Oakland, where liquor stores outnumber grocery stores 40 to 1. To combat problems of access, urban farming brings food into the community, in the form of micro-farms on just a few square meters or acres of land. Many urban gardens are in residents' backyards; others are community gardens whose produce farmers sell in the neighborhood.


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The 100 yard certainly takes things to the next stage in people's minds. Here in Melbourne, Australia, a new movement is rapidly gaining speed - 'Permablitzs'. This is a contraction of permaculture and 'backyard blitz' - which is the new of a TV program that rapidly makes-over a backyard. Although these makeovers are usually ornamental than providing useful food growing.

Please see for more information.

The formal definition:
"Permablitz: An informal gathering involving a day on which a group of at least two people come together to achieve the following:
* create or add to edible gardens where someone lives
share skills related to permaculture and sustainable living;
*build community networks; and
* have fun


Posted by: Ben Morris on 6 Sep 07

This reminds me of some of the folks we've stumbled upon on our bike tour! Particularly the foodies in Philly and the Localvore challenge in Burlington, VT. Keep it up!

Posted by: kat on 7 Sep 07

This reminds me of some of the folks we've stumbled upon on our bike tour! Particularly the foodies in Philly and the Localvore challenge in Burlington, VT. Keep it up!

Posted by: kat on 7 Sep 07

This reminds me of some of the folks we've stumbled upon on our bike tour! Particularly the foodies in Philly and the Localvore challenge in Burlington, VT. Keep it up!

Posted by: kat on 7 Sep 07

Two talented women in Portland, Oregon run a business called "Your Backyard Farmer" that creates and tends mini-farms adjoining people's homes, supplying each customer a weekly CSA-like produce basket from their own soil. For people short on time or gardening skills, it's a good way to get those food miles down to (almost) zero -- and a business model that deserves to be replicated everywhere. See

Posted by: Ted on 7 Sep 07

There's a family in Pasadena that produces 6000 lbs of produce each year off of their 1/4 acre lot - the majority of their own food plus specialty greens and edible flowers for local restaurants for income... pretty amazing.

Posted by: Zane Selvans on 10 Sep 07

This is a bit like what we are trying to do in our community, Lyttelton in NZ. We have a great community garden, we have been given money from council to develop a waste scheme working with kitchen waste from local restaurants, schools and some private homes which we process with EM and worms, we 'refresh' people's backyards with the final product and grow vegetables, but being a very hilly community, flat land is scarce. We have sourced through in Christchurch city (flat)- 9 k (so not the 100m garden) rent free land from the Polytechnic to set up a business growing produce for this community, paying wages to the organic gardeners , selling some top of the range produce to restaurants and profits will be put back into the community - like paying the part time wages of our Time Bank broker, or for fuel for the community van that picks up people who find public transport a challenge. To promote all the various projects within our community we also put out a monthly newspaper which focuses on what is going well within the community. We run our own Farmers Market. We are looking at energy issues - dreaming that we can create our own. The community is very alive!

Posted by: Margaret Jefferies on 12 Sep 07



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