The Apartment Farm Food Sustainability Audit

It occurs to me that if I am going to run my own organic family farm, two key things have to happen. #1 is I have to fully utilize organics. #2 is I have to fully support local family farms. Not that I don’t already do these things—I just need to get serious about it. Because how can I ask my community to support my organic family farm if I’m not practicing what I preach?

I recently re-read Coming Home to Eat by Gary Paul Nabhan, a food historian and local food activist in the Southwest. I read the book in 2002 when it first came out, and I credit Nabhan with really opening my eyes for the first time to sustainability. In his book, he makes a concerted effort to seek out foods that are not only local to his community, but native to his environment, or foodshed. It goes almost without saying that these types of foods are organic and natural. If I could select one book that changed my entire outlook on life, it would be Coming Home to Eat. Reading it was one of the best things to happen to me at 18—I was on my own for the first time, away at college, and open to new ideas. I’m grateful that local food, organic food, slow food; local economy; heritage breeds and heirloom seed were the ideas to take root.

But it’s time to really put those ideas into action, and be the person I am. So I decided to do a food audit. Where does my food really come from? What percentage of it is organic? What percentage local? In order to find out where I need to improve, I need an accurate gauge of where I am starting from. The first step is inventorying everything in our kitchen. I separated the kitchen into two categories—Pantry and Refrigerated (which includes freezer items). A manual inventory of all of our food seemed daunting at first, but cataloguing the pantry items only took an hour. I expect the Refrigerated items will take another hour. The next step is inputting all of that information into a spreadsheet. I wrote down product name, brand name company, parent company, and quantity information for each item.

After all of this “data” is in spreadsheet form, I need to find a way to evaluate it. I think a points system will be the easiest. +1 for everything organic. +1 for everything local. -1 for everything not local. -1 for everything not organic. So each item will get two points scores, multiplied but the quantity. I then add up the scores in each category overall. That will create a simple ratio or percentage of how much of my food is local and organic versus how much isn’t. Then I can make a list of things I want to avoid, and things that are acceptable to purchase. This list will help me be diligent as I shop. It will also allow me to set goals to reach. I’d like to strive for a 95% organic and at least 75% local household to start with. Of course, exceeding those goals won’t be a bad thing. J

Stay tuned for the tallied results and evaluation of the Apartment Farm kitchen!