Choosing food from the local radius allows Glader to have a better handle on what she's putting into her body — and how her choices affect the environment, she said.
While harkening back to days of yore, farmers' markets today are part of an ever-expanding movement that is injecting social conscience into people's dietary choices.
In the Bay Area, and in Palo Alto in particular, consumers are buying food based not just on eye-appeal or convenience but on the effects their choices have on the world, from global warming, fuel costs and environmental preservation to fair-trade wages and an array of social issues.
"Food is a choice we make three times a day. It has a huge impact on social and environmental justice in the world. It's a really powerful way to make a difference," said Susan Stansbury, executive director of Conexions, a Palo Alto nonprofit.
The group runs Valley of Heart's Delight, a project that teaches about local, seasonal and organic food choices, and Getting Going Growing, a schoolyard garden program in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
Others have been quickly climbing on board.
More than 60,000 people attended September's Slow Food Nation gathering in San Francisco, which focused on cultural, local and socially responsible eating.
Last year, Debra Satz, a Stanford University associate professor of philosophy, decided to host a series of lectures, "Ethics of Food and the Environment." She expected to attract only a handful of academics, but 500 people showed up for every lecture.
When famed food reformer Michael Pollan spoke, 2,000 people turned out, she said. The series was so popular it is now in its second year.
And witness Pollan's Oct. 12 open letter in the New York Times to the yet-to-be-chosen next United States president, in which he called for the transformation of the entire American food system.
Closer to home, attendance at the Valley of Heart's Delight's "100-mile Thanksgiving" dinner, in which all food originates from within a 100-mile radius, is expected to double to 80 people this year. In 2007, the event sold out three weeks in advance, Stansbury said.
"A typical ingredient in a modern meal travels at least 1,500 miles from farm to plate," she said, noting the environmental impacts of transporting food.
Other ways that people are getting involved include starting garden co-ops, visiting and supporting local farms and talking with fishermen about the impact of land use on food sources.
For those inclined to get their food even more locally, the Valley of Heart's Delight is also planning to start chicken-coop co-op in 2009. Palo Alto residents can have six hens, but no roosters, according to city ordinances.
When Conexions (then Foundation for a Global Community) started in 1999, eating locally was an avant-garde idea, Stansbury said.
"We asked the question, 'What do we need for a sustainable region?' The general populous didn't see a connection between food and ethics," she said.
But books such as "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver and Pollan's "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto" and "The Omnivore's Dilemma" have helped raise public interest in food consciousness, she said.
The level of interest has surprised academics like Stanford's Satz.
"'What's for dinner, dear?' is a moral question. Food is shot through with ethics issues, but no one's talking about the myriad ways that we're engaged in moral choices. We get great pleasure from food, but it does involve more choices — of being more reflective and getting people to think, 'Here's a decision, not just a taste resource for food consumption,'" she said.
"At the risk of sounding corny, people have been hungry for this."
Rob Reich, a political theorist and director of the Program in Ethics in Society at Stanford, found "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and Peter Singer's "The Ethics of What We Eat — Why Our Food Choices Matter" a springboard for thought beyond vegetarianism, which he viewed as an exhausted argument.
Vegetarianism addressed ethical issues of the treatment of animals and impacts on the environment but failed to connect with the mass public.
"I thought, 'Now I understand that it's not just ethical. It's about what choices we make collectively,'" said Reich, whose course is called "Food and Politics." More than 100 students apply to take the class when it's offered.
"Simply making different choices as individuals is important, but we can't limit what we do to our consumption choices. ... There has to be political action at the same time. One thing I've taken to heart is that at book signings, Pollan signs books, 'Vote with your fork,'" Reich said.
Reich acknowledges that the issue of food, and its impact, could be overwhelming.
"There are so many ways of coming at it," he said.
But if approaches like vegetarianism are about adhering to a strict regimen, and thus daunting to many, the new food movement is more forgiving — and flexible.
"What you should care about here isn't absolute fidelity. If you do, then when you can't achieve it, you will feel awful about yourself — or give up. ... Aim for moral decency, which allows you to be a flawed person without feeling like a failed project," he said.
"It's incremental. We ask people to try to make positive changes in what they eat. If you eat meat, eat less of it. Go to the farmers' market. Shop there. Make an effort to source your food locally," she said.
There may be no more local source than one's backyard, and thanks to a Valley of Heart's Delight initiative, dozens of Barron Park neighbors have taken up that form of "eating locally."
The group started neighborhood gardening circles eight years ago that have become so popular that three now function in Barron Park with as many as 22 people per group. A fourth circle is about to get started, according to Mark Georgia, a member of the first gardening circle.
Georgia's home garden sprawls across his front yard, where trellised 4-foot-long Tromboncino squashes mingle with beans, tomatoes and greens. He's starting an orchard on the side of the house. And a few years ago, he added a neighborhood garden bed where a boy and his father come to plant and harvest vegetables.
It's not unusual for Georgia to find people sitting in his garden porch under the pink bougainvillea, taking in the ambience of the vegetables and flowers and the insects and birds attracted there, he said.
Georgia discovered the benefits of local eating by having it shoved down his throat, he said.
Thirty years ago, a landlord in Princeton, N.J. forced Georgia to plant a garden at the home he was renting.
Georgia balked, but the landlord, an avid gardener, insisted.
"After a bite of my first homegrown tomato, I was hooked. I've had gardens everywhere I've lived," Georgia said.
"The big thing now is sustainability. You can have an organic garden, but you have to build sustainability into it," Georgia, who seeks ways to create his own compost and to produce as much sustenance for the garden on his property as possible.
Georgia said the rocky economy is influencing the food movement as well, not just ethics.
"You're hearing the terms 'victory gardens' and 'Depression gardens' now," he said.
Ann Burrell, who is helping to start the fourth garden circle, thinks the local-food movement is more than just a fad. The confluence of multiple socio-economic ideas is contributing to the sustainability of a movement with far-reaching implications, she said.
"It's not just one thing, but a lot of different things all together. I'm hearing the same issues. When people start thinking the same way, things start happening," she said.
If responsibility — or guilt — is at the heart of some of the motivation of ethical food choices, pleasure is bringing them to new audiences.
The Slow Food Movement has combined a love of local, artisanal food with moral consciousness. It was no coincidence that the Slow Food Nation event, a major gathering of slow foodies, took place in San Francisco this year, according to Ann Duwe, a leadership-team member of Silicon Valley Slow Food.
"The issue of labor and social justice came up again and again. ... You couldn't have an organization based on sustainable foods without a fair return to the farmer. ... Whatever job is along the cycle, from earth to table, people need to be fairly treated and fairly paid," she said of the group's evolution from its public perception as a gourmet-food club to a movement with ethical concerns.
The Slow Food movement began in 1986, when an Italian named Carlo Petrini became disgusted with the American fast-food industry's erosion of the local culture. Petrini organized a rebellion against building a McDonald's near the Spanish steps in Rome. Protesters armed themselves with bowls of pasta.
Three years later, the International Slow Food Movement renounced the pace of "fast life" and the fast food that is its consequence. The organization issued a manifesto, calling for protection of local economies and the preservation of local gastronomic traditions. It advocated ecological consumerism and a return to traditional recipes, food and wines.
The movement has grown to more than 75,000 people, forming chapters throughout the world.
Duwe traveled to the Italian town of Bra in 1999 to join the Slow Food trend.
"I arrived on the opening day of Slow Cheese. The tiny town was covered with white umbrellas under which were the most amazing array of artisanal cheeses that were very local to a particular region of Italy," she said.
Duwe has organized progressive dinners, where groups explore one local food source after another, learning about the farmers, ranchers and fishermen and eating along the way. On Oct. 12, the group toured the San Mateo County coast, meeting a fisherman and learning about how changes people make on land can affect the fish.
Duwe's group has also visited a farmstead that makes quiche, honey and hand-made cheese. A cow provides fresh milk and chickens; geese and ducks lay eggs for sale.
Duwe said she was inspired by the book "Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future," by Bill McKibben, who chronicled his year of living locally in Vermont.
"I thought, 'Why aren't all of us doing that here?' ... I was amazed by how he discovered how many edibles there were within 100 miles [in Vermont, where there is a short growing season]. And we could be doing the same here," she said.
If anyone doubts the effectiveness of conscientious eating, they need look no further than back at the farmers' market, where supporting local farmers is beginning to have an appreciable change.
San Luis Obispo County rancher Bob Blanchard and his wife, Terri, have switched from the factory-farm model to organic and ecologically sustainable ranching.
The couple used to poison the flies in their pastures to keep them from bothering the cows, but then, they learned, the insects are the chief food of tree swallows, the populations of which were diminishing. And the swallows are the chief food of two pairs of peregrine falcons that nest on the Blanchards' property. Without the swallows — and a lot of them — the falcons could not reproduce.
"To lay two eggs and raise two chicks, a peregrine falcon will kill 2,000 birds in a season," he said.
Since he's switched to organic ranching methods, the birds have been coming back, he said.
"The wildlife has become so amazing. The birds and the diversity of the population of birds are unbelievable," he said.
And shoppers are clamoring to his California Avenue Farmers' Market stand to purchase steaks, pork, lamb or goat meat from the organic rancher.
"It tastes just amazing," Clarina Bradshaw said, forking over $12 for a steak.
The Blanchards display a binder of photographs of their Old Creek Ranch in their booth. Cows gaze lazily at the camera lens on wind-swept bluffs above the Pacific coast. But it's the other critters of which the Blanchards are most proud and best show the fruit of the ethical-food movement: Foxes slinking in the grass and numerous birds of prey perched on fence posts and flying over the open fields.
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