Campus News

Bowdoin Organic Garden Manager's Maine-Only Diet

Story posted October 21, 2010

Katherine Creswell, manager of Bowdoin's Organic Garden, is in the midst of a true locavore diet; for a month, she is eating only foods from Maine.

Creswell had this exchange with folks in the Sustainable Bowdoin Office:

Katherine Creswell256.jpg
Bowdoin Organic Garden Manager Katherine Creswell prepares local wild onions along the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California.

Explain the premise of your diet; is it 100 percent Maine food, 100 percent of the time?
Yes. Though I have to be honest — since I'm lactose intolerant, I'm including non-Maine soy milk in my diet because I figure if I could drink milk, I'd be drinking Maine milk, no problem!

What inspired you to try a "Maine-only" diet for a month?
When I shared the idea, people thought it sounded tough, so I wanted to see how challenging it actually is. There are many people in the state working on the question "can Maine feed itself?" (and that question was a central tenet of my college thesis) so this is, in a way, my own primary investigation.

What foods are you primarily eating?
Vegetables from the BOG and other nearby farmers, wheat berries and barley, dry beans, sunflower seeds, whole wheat, spelt, buckwheat and rye flours, cornmeal, oats, honey, maple syrup, apples, dried and frozen blueberries, mushrooms, sunflower oil, salt, some eggs, tempeh and tofu.

What’s your favorite Maine food this time of the year?
That's too tough! I'll give you five: northern spy apples, buttercup winter squash, sweet potatoes, leeks and brussels sprouts.

As a vegetarian, what are your best sources of Maine-grown protein?
Beans are the most readily available, cheap and versatile. I have some yellow eye, jacob's cattle, marfax, tiger eye and black turtle grown by the BOG and farmers in Jefferson and New Sharon, Maine. I also mentioned tempeh — I don't eat a ton of it, but it's grown and made by a wonderful farming family in Dresden and comes in black bean as well as soy form so I don't have to rely on soy too much.

What snack do you miss the most?
I miss nuts in general. You can grow some nuts in Maine (chestnut, beech nut, butternut, hazelnut, acorn), but there is no one that I know of doing it commercially.

Do you think that this diet is possible for all Mainers?
That's tough. It's a question worth working out, but I for one don't have an answer yet. There are two main hurdles the way I see it: getting people used to changing their diet (eating seasonally, doing without coffee and chocolate etc.) and getting enough farmers producing the right crops and keeping them in the state.

How have you benefitted from this experiment?
I feel great on this diet — both physically and philosophically! My meals are simpler and more creative, and I'm making connections with farmers and food producers in the state who I hadn't met before and I feel good about giving them my money. For example, I met Henry, the producer of Henry's Organic Sunflower Oil, at Common Ground, and bought $30 worth of beans from my friend Rosie's farm in Jefferson and felt good about doing business with a friend.

Any advice for those interested in replicating your diet?
Give yourself one allowance — after all, it is 2010 and so many food items are easily and ethically available to us (i.e. fair trade chocolate and coffee). If you allow yourself one item that isn't from Maine, you'll be less likely to resent the restrictions of the diet and embrace it more fully.

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