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10-Mile Dieter at a 100-Mile Diet Potluck

What my neighbors and I learned when we sat down to figure out what food resources we have at hand, and how to fill the gaps.

Whidbey Island Farm, photo by Jay Wilson

Beets grow on Whidbey Island in Washington's Puget Sound.

Photo by Jay Wilson

Oh, less than 24 hours in and I was sooooo tempted to cheat at the Transition Whidbey potluck on local eating.

Everyone tried for local dishes, but most would get only an E for effort in my 10-mile world. Maybe that squash was local but the mozzarella certainly wasn’t. The zucchini chocolate cake (drool) was made with homegrown zukes, but the chocolate sure wasn’t from anyone’s backyard on this continent. So I ended up eating… the soup I brought, which I can guarantee came from my 10-mile circle. Potatoes, leeks, turnips, garlic, milk, and the boiled bones from the chickens my 5.5 mile friends Eric and Britt grew from chicks and cooked for their wedding last Saturday. The soup was yummy. Really. No kidding.

At the potluck, we used big sheets of butcher paper to list where we could get the foods we eat: meat, veggies, fruit, grains, staples, sweets. I was lucky to meet another 10-mile supplier for honey and snagged a big jar of honey from him for just $15. The bees made their brew from blackberry flowers in Maxwelton Valley. I almost feel like I know them.

Ideally for the experiment I’d be trading Tricia's veggies for these 10-mile extras, but the only really special item in the box I got last night was a pint of super sweet strawberries and I just can’t part with them.

planting moneyDollars With Good Sense: Ordinary people are printing their own money without breaking the law.

This experiment is shifting me further towards a different relationship with money (yes, that again). I’m starting to see myself as part of a trading network where currently my trading chit is money but eventually I’ll find ways I can add value with something I grow or produce. We have a local trading network that swaps in a unit called Terras, so perhaps trading in our local food system will eventually be facilitated by our local currency system.

After the exercise of discovering how much we DO produce here and who sells it, we talked about the butcher sheet called “GAPS"—the foods we couldn't make here at home.

My exotics—oil, salt, caffeine, and lemons—were up there, and so were chocolate, bananas, avocados, dried beans, grains, nuts. Someone has a Meyer Lemon tree but not for trading. Quite a few people have filbert (hazelnut) trees, but the birds and squirrels tend to get them before they are ripe enough for humans. There was talk of walnut trees somewhere. One farmer grows and dries beans up on Ebey’s Prairie (our mid-island rich bottom land) but they are super expensive and not enough to supply us all. Many grasses are grown, but for livestock, not as grain for humans. In fact, about 80 percent of the agricultural land is in food for animals other than us yakking bipeds. Raises an interesting question: What if we ate less meat? Could we actually feed ourselves from the island? Avocados and bananas are probably never going to be in a 100-mile diet (unless of course you are like me and hoping to spend part of the year in Brazil, where papayas and avocados and mangoes and bananas sort of fall at your feet as you walk).

About 60 people showed up and we really worked together on that GAPS list. Even though we might not make it to avocados, I’m pretty sure we built up a head of steam towards enough grains for bread and pasta and breakfast cereal eventually. And who knows, we may figure out how to beat the birds to the filberts and expel hazelnut oil.

John Lee presented snippets from the Island Food System group’s report. I'll report on that later. We have a long way to go to arrive at self sufficiency here, but we are in motion at least. We’re on our way.


Vicki Robin is blogging for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions, about her experiment with a 10-mile diet on Whidbey Island, Wa. The coauthor of Your Money or Your Life, Vicki teaches classes about frugal, creative, and self-sufficient living (see www.yourmoneyoryourlife.org). 

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