Where is Your Food Coming From? Bullseye Evaluation

Sharon March 15th, 2012

It has been a few years since I’ve done a really close examination of how much of our food we’re producing/getting locally/getting from elsewhere.  In that time, some things have changed at our place – some of our fruit trees have begun producing, we’ve gotten more and different livestock, we’ve built relationships with some new sources.  On the other hand, foster children have meant we are required to provide some purchased milk and other items we didn’t buy previously, and we also have been the beneficiaries of a lot of things given to us by our dumpster-diving buddy.

I think it is time for me to sit down and figure out what we’re eating and where it is coming from in a consistent way, and I’d like to invite others to do so too.   Many years ago, Aaron Newton and I imagined “The Bullseye Diet” as a revision of the then-popular “100 Mile Diet” to help people think about how to bring the local into their diets – you start with the 50 yard diet (from your back steps or your kitchen garden) and move out from there.  The goal is to get most of your food from the inner rings – and to rely on the outer as much as possible for luxury items, rather than things you really depend on.

Different people in different places will have very different abilities to do this – and that’s fine, this isn’t a competition.  What it is is a chance for us all to compare notes on how much food we can produce on our own properties and how much we can forage and buy from nearby – and where exactly it is coming from.  By pulling together regional information and how big our personal land bases are, we can get a sense of what, say, urbanites in Pheonix or suburban dwellers outside Sheboygan can grow, and what an emergent local food culture really looks like.

I’d like to invite you to join me, starting April 1, in keeping track of how much you are producing, and where the food you aren’t producing is coming from.  Over the course of a year, with monthly self-analysis, we’ll take a look at what we local eaters are actually eating, where we’re getting it, what we can change and what needs work.  We know that the local food movement has made enormous progress over the last few years, but how much in any given region is hard to quantify, and few regions have full local food evaluations.  This isn’t that – but it is a start at collecting experiences.

It shouldn’t be too onerous to track – most of us can quickly note where our meals are coming from – and again, this is not about competing. Instead, we need to think about what would happen if we couldn’t buy everything we wanted – and  tbe first steps in that are taking a good hard look at what we are really eating.  But not just a hard look – this is a chance to look with pride and joy at all we’ve accomplished both personally and as communities.  It is a chance to show off what we’re eating, and the delicious, local meals we’re producing.  To ask ourselves about substitutes for things we buy from far away and to share our collective wisdom at finding new resources and new ways to include more vibrant local food in our diets.

Anyone in?


14 Responses to “Where is Your Food Coming From? Bullseye Evaluation”

  1. K.B. says:

    I’m in – sort of :)

    I don’t know that the geographic limits in the bulls-eye system are any better (or worse) than the mile limits, but I think that any focus on our food systems is a good thing.

  2. Lea says:

    Since reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I have been interested in this….. count me in!

  3. I’m definitely interested in this challenge. I recently read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle as well and have been very inspired. While our family has definitely made some serious shifts in how we eat over the past couple of years, I feel we still have a long way to go and so much to learn. I welcome the conversations that I anticipate coming about :-) Thanks for being such an inspiration, Sharon!

  4. [...] Where is Your Food Coming From? Bullseye Evaluation [...]

  5. Sharon says:

    There aren’t any geographic limits in the bullseye system, which is the point – instead of a 100 mile or other abitrary limit, it emphasizes closeness – and distinguishes between 2 miles and 80. Of course, I would think that was better since it was my idea ;-) .


  6. Buzzy says:

    I just finished reading “Depletion and Abundance”, so am completely inspired to increase my locavore attempts. Built a raised bed last week, and have been researching all the great local options in my area. This evaluation will help keep me on track, thanks!

  7. Claire says:

    Shouldn’t be too hard for me to do this, since I weigh everything I harvest out of our veggie garden already. I’ll go along for the ride.

  8. K.B. says:

    Sharon, I’m looking at the graphic, which includes state and nation. Which are geographical limits…

  9. Hi Sharon,
    I think the circle for state would be useful, as long as you don’t live right on the edge. For me, living in the Berkshires in Massachusetts (Weez and I met you last year when we picked up our plants, hi!), there are a lot of New York State farms that are a lot more local to me than farms in Eastern Mass. For myself, I would probably imagine that particular circle as my area or region, rather than my state. On the other hand, in Lexington, MA where I grew up, the state would be a really good way to envision that level of local.

  10. [...] and the other is The Chatelaine’s Keys. She’s written about the bullseye diet at both blogs—here and [...]

  11. Sharon says:

    Yes, it does include “state” and “nation” and then goes on to “everywhere else” which technically can include all the food you want to get from other nations, planets and galaxies. There are no absolute geographic limitations in this – the implication is that closer is better, the more of your food from the inner rings the better, but it doesn’t arbitrarily limit your access to food to a particular area, or imply that 95 miles and 5 miles are the same. I’m not clear on how “everywhere else” is a geographical limit, except in the sense that it is better to get food from your yard than from across the planet.


  12. K.B. says:

    I guess my confusion comes from the fact that, as a Canadian, this system implies that, after local, it’s better to get my food from, for example, Thunder Bay (“State”, 980 miles away), then Vancouver (Nation, 2700 miles away), then Buffalo, NY (everywhere else), which I can see from my house.

    I *know* that’s not what you mean, but that’s what the bulls-eye says, unless I’m missing something? So, for me, I’m choosing to ignore the state/nation/everywhere divisions, and focus mainly on absolute distance.

  13. Malin says:

    I love the bulls eye diet. Just gonna add how more complicated it can be to know what is the best choice.

    In the Uk book How bad are bananas, I found some surprising facts about climate impact on different food and actions. I still figuring out how carbon heavy homemade beef, milk and eggs are.

    - Bananas aren’t actually that bad as they’re usually shipped – on ships. It’s the air-freighted asparagus and continental out of season hothouse tomatoes that are amongst the worst fruit and veg. Out of season and air-freighted fruit and veg have around 100x the CO2e of locally grown in-season produce.

  14. karrie says:

    I love this idea!

    I do feel a tiny thrill when I save something like organic meyer lemons from the marked down bin at my local (tiny town in NH) conventional grocery though. On one hand, I know I’m still giving them some of my $, but I hate the thought that the lemons (or bananas or avocadoes) traveled that far only to end up in a plastic bag at a landfill.

    We do have some interesting houseplants from growing the pits & seeds, at least. ;-)

    I’m also brainstorming subversive ways to grow food as a renter when your property manage is opposed to it. I guess they really like mowing an acre of lawn….

    I’m thinking of containers on a picnic table, or maybe something with wheels “parked” in the driveway (I am car free) so I don’t (the horror!) hurt the grass. ;-)

    I do sprout, have some indoor plants and order from a local farmer that delivers to several houses on my street one day each week. I wish our local farmer’s market was better–it is one of those where more than half the vendors are selling popcorn or knicknacks, but I guess at least it exists.

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