It is not easy to eat local Irish food all year round and I know that. There are hungry months in late Spring when the food is just not ready after late frosts. So three years ago I decided to do a trial month: A 30 day local food challenge. September seemed a really good option as the garden is truly abundant with tomatoes, kale, spinach, herbs, peas, beans, onions, garlic, beets, carrots, parsnips and the list goes on. It is a luscious month in the gardening calendar. To eat Irish still means doing without what Barbara Kingsolver called ‘botanically outrageous’ foods, but it is somehow easier this month with all the food on offer in the garden and hedgerows.
Lisa Fingleton talking about the annual 30 Day Local Food Challenge
A creative eco-social art practice that I really admire is Irish artist Lisa Fingleton’s 30 Day Local Food Challenge. The creative idea grew several years ago when Lisa was horrified to read the 40 listed and many imported ingredients in a BLT sandwich, and then and there, decided to challenge herself to just eat local Irish food for a month. She then shared her challenge on social media and others became involved.
Growing up in a household where her father grew all their food and now living on a small farm with her partner in Co. Kerry, Ireland, Lisa’s creative practice awakens awareness of the unsustainability of the globalized food system for herself and her local community. Her work highlights the shocking statistic that only 1% of Irish farms grow vegetables, the lowest in the EU (which is doubly shocking considering Ireland’s history of famine). Most heartening is that Lisa’s practice has uncovered and promoted networks of local food producers in a fun and engaging way.
Lisa brings many strands of artist activity together and through drawings, photos, keeping a diary, and great conversation fosters much needed community awareness about an urgent topic for us all.
Over time, Lisa’s 30 Day Local Food Challenge has developed considerable national press and radio attention. Lisa has since toured the project to other counties, conducted children’s workshops and created a very delightful, informative book about the project (which can be purchased from her website (http://lisafingleton.com).
Three years later, this year’s 2019 Challenge is underway for the month of September and I’m happy to see the idea is catching on across the country. To join in, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/30daylocalfoodchallenge/
And, it is a challenge once you start, to only eat food from your country and forgo all the imported treats and exotic fruits. However, making decisions about your food does makes real how the industrial food model all too easily has alienated us from being sustainable and self reliant. When environmental writer Naomi Klein writes thats ‘everything must change’, Lisa’s work shows how creative workers can help communities foster ecoliteracy, fun and agency for a better world we know is possible.