Transition Laguna Beach: Changing OC's Food Sources, One Garden At A Time

Categories: Das Ubergeek, News
Dave Lieberman
It doesn't get more local than your own backyard.
We're mocked a great deal in Orange County for our love of chain restaurants, convenience food and cheap, Sysco-type food. It doesn't seem to matter that our tastes mirror those of the rest of the country--the point is that food is trucked in from God-only-knows where, six or ten or fifteen steps removed from its growers by the time it reaches its consumers. So tortuous is the chain of custody of the food we eat that the U.S. government is attempting to enact food safety laws to require traceability of specific foods. The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), who naturally have something to say about this, estimate that the average American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm (or factory) to plate.

Becky Prelitz, the wife of environmental consultant Chris Prelitz, read her husband's book Green Made Easy: The Everyday Guide for Transitioning to a Green Lifestyle and realized something had to be done.

Lauren Parmenter / Transition Laguna Beach
Prelitz, no stranger to the green movement, went looking for like-minded people. She found a group called the Transition Network, people working toward the lofty goal of making their towns fossil fuel-free. While the bulk of oil being used in the everyday life of a town is used for transportation, heating and the like, food accounts for a great deal of oil use, whether from transportation of water and fertilizer to the fields or from the eventual transportation to distribution centers.

Prelitz and six collaborators formed the first Transition group in Orange County--both Santa Monica and Santa Barbara are Transition towns--to try and reduce (and, eventually, eliminate) Laguna Beach's dependence on oil. Action groups formed around problems such as trash, transportation (anyone who's ever tried to drive through Laguna Beach in summer can attest to the need for alternative infrastructure) and food. The group has grown from six to more than 450 in the last two and a half years, with 30-40 people signing up to the mailing list per month.

Courtesy of Transition Laguna Beach
Sean McCracken, leader of TLB's food group
Farmers' markets are, of course, a good place to cut down on the carbon footprint of food, but even our farmers' markets invite vendors from San Joaquin, Fresno and further north. It's pushing the limits of reason to call asparagus from the Sacramento River delta, 350 miles away, local. Asking the staff at the large chain market where the produce marked "local" is actually from is usually an exercise in frustration. The answer? Home gardens, and more specifically, home gardens that produce results people can eat.

"You have to make it as fun and as compelling then what they are doing now; you need to be creative," said Sean McCracken, leader of the TLB Food Group. "Making it social and community building with food and drink helps in this cause."

Most people will come across the TLB Food Group at the stand they set up on a monthly basis at the Saturday farmers' market on Forest Ave. between Broadway and Ocean Ave.; the next appearance will be on Saturday, December 18. The stand is set up in the overflow area north of the main market (through a fence), but is worth looking for.

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