RIVERSIDE – For members of Judi Harvin’s family, dining in has taken on a new meaning.
Harvin is a Riverside resident and the owner of Focus Yoga in Brookfield. As someone who began working in the fitness industry more than 20 years ago, Harvin has worked to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“If you believe that there’s this connection between you and the environment around you, it makes some sense to eat from the environment around you,” Harvin said. “Now that sounds a little bit out there. But I think it’s a really basic thing; it’s the way it used to be.”
To retain a connection with the community of local food producers, Harvin approached her family about trying an experiment. Harvin and her husband, Doug, have two daughters: Sylvia, 12, and Eva, 13. They will follow principles over the 12 months mirrored in a book titled “The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating,” by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon.
The idea is to base a daily diet as much as possible on items from people who produce food within a 100-mile radius. Harvin said it’s not as easy as it sounds.
“This was her idea. It’s probably not how I would go about a change in my life because I’m a fairly lazy person,” Doug Harvin quipped when asked about how his wife broached the idea with him. “But she had some pretty good ideas, and it would be kind of interesting.”
The Harvins’ daughters were reluctant about the plan at first but said they are on board with it.
“Not much, because we already eat really locally and healthy,” Eva said when asked what changes she had noticed in the family’s eating habits.
Her daughter, Silva, took more convincing.
“Well, I was quite negative on it and still am because I like the way that we’re eating now. I like how all the food tastes,” Sylvia said. “But I mean, sure, we can support local businesses and that. So I’m willing to give it a try.”
The Harvins have given themselves leeway in how they implement their plan. For one, the 100-mile radius extends not only to their home in Riverside but also the farm they own in Amboy, a town near Dixon. An advantage they have with this approach is that they raise steer on their farm, so their meat needs are not much of a problem.
Family members also will have to decide on what Judi Harvin called non-negotiables, food items they cannot do without but that can’t be bought locally.
“We have to make a few concessions,” Doug Harvin said. “We figure there’s a few things we’re allowed, put them on a list of things that are sort of acceptable for us.”
Judi Harvin said one of the key issues is how to carry out this plan while keeping within a sensible budget.
“What I’m looking to do is how to make this cost-effective. And it doesn’t mean not supporting the farmers. It just means coming at them in a different direction, coming at this in a different direction,” Harvin said. “Will you sell me 50 pounds of flour instead of 2? You know, ways to make it more cost-effective because it can be prohibitively expensive.”
As for what lessons will be learned through this process, each family member had a slightly different take.
“I’m interested in tastes,” Eva said. “So I think it’s going to be interesting to find what things taste better and if it’s possible to taste better.”
“I bet the first month we’ll have a hard time figuring it out for every meal. But I would bet by the end of the year we’ll be pretty local by then, I would think,” Doug Harvin said.
Judi Harvin said she has created a blog – LocalEatingProject.blogspot.com – and intends to share experiences the family has from this yearlong process. She also wants to provides tips to people about how to carry out similar plans based on what she and her family have learned.
“Part of it is that I really want them to be aware of the people who are in our local community who are growing food that they can have, that their choices are more than just what they can get at the grocery store, coming from large food corporations,” she said. “And I also think that there is a mental health benefit to knowing where your food came from and to being able to talk with the people who are producing your food. If nothing else, it’s just fun.”