Published Jun 3, 2010

Local Food Purchases: Knowing Where We Are Now

By Teresa Opheim

Yesterday my son and I took the afternoon off to volunteer at Farm to Folk (, the spot where we get most of our locally grown food. We hauled a lot of food home! Lettuce, spinach, lots of strawberries, rhubarb, garlic scapes, eggs, tomatoes (from the Berry Patch greenhouse) and on and on.

Our family is proud to have won Farm to Folk’s Golden Fork (we call it Biggest Eater) award last year. And we hope we get some serious challengers this year. My partner Rich is the one who keeps track of local food purchases in our family. He and Tomoko Ogawa, who heads up PFI’s local foods project, were featured in the Iowa State Daily yesterday, talking about the project.

Since the project started the first of May, our household ratio is 23 percent local (defined as within Iowa) and 77 percent bought from a distance. Despite how hard we try to buy local!

The spreadsheet Rich developed for the project provides “a lot of visual feedback, looking at how the numbers compare to our perception,” he told the newspaper. “We perceive [our local food purchases] as being much higher than they actually are. If we want to get somewhere, we have to know where we are now.”

“It’s important to realize how much we depend on the conventional food system,” Tomoko told the Iowa State Daily. “We need to grasp where we are right now.”

Rich agreed: “Once we are aware, we can evaluate if we’re consistent with our goals and personal philosophies and make change.”

For more on the PFI local foods project, contact Tomoko Ogawa at