true life story:
Deciding to vote with my dollars for sustainable and healthy food ways.
(report submitted in 2006)
I started with the desire , the inspiration really, to make this huge difference in the world by changing consumer habits.  I aspired to be an activist - but not the kind that tries to change somebody else’s action.  I had come up with the notion that my own spending habits are the way I control our economy.  Granted, I am just one in 250 million - but in my imagination, I am part of a huge group of people who are doing the same thing - reducing destructive spending - and so I bring into myself the idea that this (spending) is powerful action.  I decided to buy organic and locally produced food.
(click image to read card)
I came up with the idea of The Homemaker’s Pledge.  Lots of other groups I’ve seen on the internet use the idea of the pledge - to change their habitual spending and buy locally, sustainably produced food.  I agree with them.  This Homemaker's Pledge Card shows my “BIG IDEA” and my direction in deciding to take charge of how I spend.
I talked about this dream of mine with others.  I am lucky that I live in a farming area where progressive farmers have settled - people to turn to, to learn about farming and food.  These are the people who have been teaching me all about the high environmental and human health costs of factory farms,  genetically engineered foods, corporate agri-business - all that.  At the same time they showed me about progressive, sustainable methods like chicken tractors, organic CSA farming, and small batch meat from grass fed animals.

Genetically Modified Organisms 

Factory Farmed Meat - Egg - Dairy

Non-organic (chemical) farms

Artificial Ingredients (color, flavor)

Highly Processed

Shipped from very remote sources

VISION:  To help to keep myself on track, I made a sort of game of my decision to change my lifestyle, complete with my own scoring system.  I decided to keep track of how well I changed my own habits, by recording all the grocery money I spend.  I use a computer checkbook program called Quicken to balance my checkbook, so it was easy to just remember to use a check instead of cash when buying food.  Anything like fast food or from the supermarket, since it was probably genetically engineered or factory farmed, was categorized as FALSEFOOD.
I categorized checks for both local and organic food as in the FOOD column.

To replace supermarket shopping, the directions I found were our co-op, home gardening (which my husband already did), also canning and freezing, (which I took up some), shopping for groceries with the organic label, a CSA, local meat and egg producers - money spent on these were the kinds of purchases I put in the FOOD column. 


Groceries with Organic label

Local Producers - personal contact to see commitment

Community Supported Agriculture CSA

Whole foods, usually bulk ordered 

Home gardening, home Processed

We live far enough away from any organic markets that the decision to
buy organic was the same as the decision to start a food co-op.  There were enough interested people in our area to support the minimum order that Federation of Ohio River Co-operatives required.  We have put in a monthly order since June of 99, and just this week I put in our largest order ever, over 4000 dollars.  I work as the co-op manager.
About one third of our members are food stamp recipients, so it was important to participate in the food stamp program.  We were accepted as retailers by the program by filing legally with the State of Kentucky as a non-profit buying cooperative.  It was not difficult to do.  E-mail and ask me to show the particulars if your buying club would like to serve food stamp members.
United Natural Food Inc ended up buying out FORC, so this is now one of the distributors who serve us.  They give us a useful software program to compile the order called Foodlink.  Because of the size of our order, we receive a 13 percent discount on all non-sale items.  When they notified me of that new discount, I was pretty excited to do something new with that. 
I made up these coupons as local currency, and I give back to the members the volume discount in this form. Several local producers accept the coupons as payments for their products.  I have been able to distribute between 150 and 300 local "dollars" every month, with the co-op order, which works as an irresistable incentive to the members to buy locally, and a support for the farmers, guaranteeing them sales from co-op members. 
co-op prices
wild oats price
 Muir Glen OG Ketchup
 Ecover Dish Liquid
 Red Hot Blue Corn Chips OG
 Raisins OG per pound
 Rapunzel Cocoa OG
 Erewon OG Crispy Brown Rice
 Ezekiel Bread OG
Local currency rebate
We had to form a co-op and order monthly because we are so far from any big-city stores that offer organic foods.  But even if I lived in the city now, I would want to be part of a pre-order co-op.  It costs more to buy organic, than conventional grocery prices, and big natural foods markets can be high.  Here is a list of just a few items at both prices, Co-op prices shown are marked up 10 percent over catalog price. Our prices are noticeably better. 
Another good reason to be part of a co-op is social.  Its a good way to get together with friends.  Our co-op meets every month, the night before the order is due, for a “splits meeting” and potluck dinner.  There we decide about splitting cases, on items that are only available by the case.  That way we don’t each have to buy 12 of something to get it.  The splits meeting is fun and the Foodlink software provided by United Natural Foods makes it easy to compile the group order.
Here are Todd and Sarah, of Sylvanus Farms, a certified organic CSA in our county, who brings produce every co-op day to be bought with local currency.  Our co-op also sells Zimmerman's Farmstead Cheese which is made in Casey County of raw milk by entirely grass fed cows. 
I enjoyed being a CSA member, but my husband Greg felt deprived without a garden of his own.  Now we buy or trade for some of their vegetables to augment our own garden because the CSA does such a great variety of items, but for our staple potatoes, green beans, onions, tomatoes, peppers and squash, we can grow them ourselves.  Here he is mulching and planting our garden.
From our friend and co-op member, Evelyn, we regularly buy hen's eggs and now beef. We are meat eaters, and we especially aim to avoid factory farms.  Our neighbors Lane and Ricki Linnenkohl at Dry Branch Farm became our supplier.  We bought a chest freezer, and over the years we have put in that freezer several steer, hogs, chickens, clean lard for pie crusts, lamb, plus vegetables from our garden.  Except for chickens, when I buy meat, I buy the live animal from the farmer and the farmer delivers it to the meat processor. 
Here is my computer generated chart showing my personal grocery spending over the last ten years.  The 2005 totals are projected, based on the first 8 months.  Keeping track like this has been easy and fun for me since I was using the computer anyway to keep my checkbook  balanced.  1999 was the year we started the co-op. 
You see that my RED spending went up again in 2001 and I think this coincides with my decision to give in, to my kids, and let them have some of their old favorites from the grocery stores.  They were feeling deprived.  So we had a routine of going round the supermarket every month or so, when they picked some items to go into the cart.  I gave in to them a bit, and in the long run that made it easier for my kids to absorb the change, but didn’t stop my progress.
RETROSPECTIVE:  Starting with an impulse and support of like minded friends, we came up with solutions to our mutual needs.  Using the co-op, CSA, home gardening, local animal foods, my household now plainly shows an example of measurable positive change.  The benefits to me and my family have been tremendous.  It does cost more.  But we don’t mind a bit, because we feel very enriched by the quality of food we have.  We have it made.  We eat great.  And I would just never want to go back to the other way.
A lifestyle is expressed by the routine ways; also are built the sense of community, trust, that comes from having common routines with other like minded friends.  My values are traced by my friendships, on my calendar, in my checkbook, through my everyday routines.  We prepare a garden in the spring, get together to order every four weeks from the co-op, we buy chickens in the fall and a steer in December.  We buy eggs routinely from Evelyn.  By looking at my own spending scores, I can know I'm walking my talk.  Besides eating better in taste and in healthiness, this is my way of being an environmental activist.
The BIG PICTURE:  This is the picture of the deadzone that seasonally appears in the Gulf of Mexico.  This is a cumulative effect of all the Mississippi watershed. Seventy percent of waterway pollution is traceable to agriculture.  With more and more people adding their lifestyle change to mine, this unhealthy picture will change altogether.  I offer this report as an example of a personal solution for the global environmental problems of all the rivers in the world.