Family pledges to eat locally this year

Lawson Watford checks out the fresh fruit his mother got from the Community Supported Agriculture program.

Like many families, the Watfords made a New Year's resolution about their diet.

Their goal, however, is a little more ambitious than most.

The Watford family pledged to eat locally in 2011.

'We were sitting around one Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning, and I think it was Mom's bright idea,' Brett Watford says of his family's pledge.

'I read a lot of stuff about being more simple and self-sufficient,' mom Callie Watford says. 'Our goal is to be on a farm and be self-sufficient.'

But she is quick to point out that it really wasn't much of a leap for the West Ashley family, which includes four sons ages 10 and under.

'We have always grown a lot of our own stuff,' she says. 'We have always gardened, and we tend to eat a lot of salad and fresh food.'

Her sons eat collards and carrots, turnips and most everything else.

'For the last year or two, we have eaten only produce in season,' she says. 'Our lifestyle has been gradually changing. We never were big candy eaters.'

She laughs as she recalls the looks she got from other moms in the grocery store the time she refused to buy out-of-season cantaloupe for son Lawson, now 4, who cried.

'We don't get all the snacks that we normally did, like granola bars and Fruit Gushers,' says oldest son Tyler, 10. 'And we really look at things before we buy them.'

At the same time, he admits, 'We don't ask for junk food, but if we have it, we'll eat it.'

The boys' favorite snack is deer jerky made by their grandfather in Columbia or fresh, homemade bread.

So far, Callie says, eating locally has helped them save money.

They have their own egg-laying chickens and have joined a Community Supported Agriculture

program, where they get fresh local fruits and vegetables each week. She says that was important because she worried about having to drive all over town with her children, but is instead able to stock up on fruits and vegetables in one place.

'We save a lot of money because we don't buy junk food,' she says. 'There is an upfront cost for the CSA, but I would easily spend that on fruits and vegetables anyway.'

They didn't eat fast food often before their pledge, but she points out that there are restaurants that buy local, too.

'We miss our Friday night Mexican food,' Brett says, but it has only encouraged more creative thinking.

'It's been a little bit of a change, but it hasn't been bad,' Callie says. 'And I get to experiment with new ingredients.'

She also benefits from more experienced members and farmers at the CSA. For instance, one recently suggested making soup in a pumpkin, which was a big hit with the family.

On a recent cold winter evening, the smell of freshly baked bread filled the house while a pot of bean and vegetable soup simmered on the stove. The soup included dry beans, turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, chicken sausage (from Lexington), sage grown in their backyard and tat soi, an Asian mustard green they were trying for the first time.

'If you had told me three months ago I would be cooking tat soi and turnips and liking it, and my boys would be liking it, too, I would have probably said, ‘Tat- what?'' she says.

But they have all been open to new ideas, and so far, the family has upheld the promise.

'Once you taste something that comes from a short distance, you know there is a huge difference,' Callie says.

She makes Cullen's baby food, and the family plans to start using raw milk and to make their own cheese and butter.

To make the pledge a little easier, the family has expanded 'local' to include North Carolina and Georgia. Although the Watfords mostly use local honey as a sweetener, they occasionally need sugar, which comes from Georgia.

'Ideally, we'd limit it to 150 miles,' Brett says. 'Our intention is to buy everything local.'

They like the idea of supporting the local economy, especially since Brett is a business owner. Through C.B. Services, he builds custom chicken coops, raised garden beds and rain-barrel collection systems, and specializes in using sustainable/environmentally friendly products.

'We don't want to be so rigid that it's impossible,' Callie says. 'We also allowed ourselves one thing that is not local. I chose olive oil.'

Coffee is another indulgence. And the boys are allowed to accept edible gifts from relatives.

They buy toilet paper made by Georgia-Pacific and don't use paper towels, plates or cups. Cereal boxes are recycled into arts and crafts. They limit themselves to one 13-gallon bag of trash per week and are making the switch to cloth diapers for baby Cullen.

Her sons already were pretty healthy, but she said the benefits go beyond that.

'The boys have a lot more appreciation for what's in season,' Callie says. 'I want my kids to know that carrots are grown in the dirt, not in a plastic bag.'

Brenda Rindge can be reached at 937-5713.