Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Florida, Frost, Food and Pythons

The above photo was not taken in my home state of Florida, but it nearly could have been (it was snapped on Sunday during a snowshoe through the Sudbury Desert). As you've probably heard, temperatures in FL have plummeted to record lows, wreaking havoc on a state better known for being too hot all of the time.

Here in New England we're used to such temperatures, but we're also used to getting a lot of our food from Florida. This fact was driven home for me yesterday I swung by my neighborhood natural foods market. The produce shelves were nearly bare save for a note explaining that below freezing temperatures throughout the South were to blame.

Oh, right! I forgot that bananas, tomatoes and all of the other tropical flora we're used to devouring day in day out actually come from very far away, and that many have pointed out the tenuous nature of depending on such distant places for our food supply.

It's been said that, when it comes to food, the country can survive without the city but the city can't survive without the country, and now it seems that cold places can't survive without the (supposed to be) warm places. Of course the delicious irony is that the less sustainable our food supply, the more chaotic the weather is going to get and the more we'll see the system flounder. In other words, the more we ship produce from far away, the more carbon we pump into the atmosphere, the weirder the weather gets, and the more wrenches will get thrown into the plan.

What does a more sustainable New England food supply look like in winter? On a grassroots level, it means home cooks doing more freezing, canning, drying and storing locally grown produce that keeps well. For instance, the $200 worth of root veggies and apples my wife and I have chilling in our hallway. But what does it mean for people who aren't hippy hobbits?

On a larger scale, we need more local processing of local ingredients. That way those of us who don't have time to cook and jar applesauce (though in my utopia that's something we all make time for) can go buy locally grown, frozen, dried and stored stuff at your neighborhood market. As Grist reports, to truly go local, we need not more independently owned groceries.

The one good thing about a freezing Florida is that it may help inhibit the horrifying Burmese python problem. When they get cold, these exotic invasive monsters come out to bask in the sun, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Coalition is reminding hunters that it's a good time to find one and blow it away. And that opens up a whole new food supply.

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Paul Adler said...

Aaron this is about the clearest written explanation of this set of complex issues I've seen. Bravo!

Also, what's the deal with those pythons - they're horror movie large!

Michelle said...

See, now I was thinking the pythons would simply freeze to death at those temperatures.

And thanks for the validation that living in the country is a good idea. Can a person survive a whole winter on eggs and potatoes?

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