April 10, 2009 at 10:25AM
by Alexandra Zissu
Organic-interested people -- parents or not -- the country over have long told me they cannot find the percentage of organic items they would like to fill their lives with. They don't have enough, or sometimes any, choices, they lament to me, at the grocery store, and certainly not if they want to buy lunch out when at the office. It's hard, they e-mail me, to find local milk, and/or vegetables, let alone pasture-raised animals. The refrain is always the same: "I. Don't. Live. In. California."
Well neither do I. And while New York, my hometown, has a tremendous variety of organic items, from food to beauty products to crib mattress to cleaning products to year-round farmers' markets, it, too, is not California. A few years ago when I was first researching The Complete Organic Pregnancy, living the lifestyle was much more difficult than it is today, even in New York. Which I find heartening; the bounty has really arrived. Which means it is and will be arriving all over the country. But even as it's easier for me to go grab lunch without too much forethought, New York still isn't California.
Why all the fuss about Cali? As I type these words, I'm in California, for the first time in years. The babe's paternal grandfather and paternal uncle both celebrated milestone big deal birthdays this year, so we're all gathered together at said uncle's family home in the Napa Valley. And you know what? It really is easier in California. Organic and eco-friendly items are the norm, not the exception. Some of the things I have noticed since arriving: at the San Francisco airport, there are signs on the Air Train platform about not pouring substances down drains that could harm crabs, and bins for garbage, plastic and newspapers. This is not the sort of thing I expect to see at any of New York's three airports anytime soon, much to my chagrin.
All of the fruit I agonize over eating in the winter in New York -- when no fruit is growing locally -- comes from California. So that conundrum is clearly missing. And of course, being in wine country, it's a cinch to drink locally. I have found a wealth of vineyards growing organic grapes, all less than five minutes from the house. And we have had a lovely time visiting them, and eyeing weeds among the vines, as sure a sign of no spraying as anything. But even the small vineyards that are spraying chemical pesticides have solar panels. The sun here is relentless, and begging to be harnessed for use. And the talk at most pourings -- organic or not -- turns to biodynamic farming before a taster (that would be me) even brings it up.
Today my family swam in a pool that is treated with some kind of eco salt system instead of chlorine, got all of our electricity from solar panels, ate organic Californian strawberries, Pacific Ocean salmon, Cowgirl Creamery Mount Tam cheese, among other deliciousness, and washed it down with rosé wine that comes from vines we can see from the back porch. I ended my afternoon a little further down the road, at a tasting at Ehlers Estate
. The grapes are organic, the farming biodynamic, the cleaning products green. We had a lovely chat with a Brooklyn-born and raised man who poured the wine. His wife is expecting their first baby and they're very concerned about having a pure pregnancy.
I'd say he and his wife are now living in just the right place to make it happen without much effort. But as much as I've enjoyed the ease of maintaining my green-ness at this family reunion, I also maintain that people anywhere in the country can find what they need and want to find if they look for it. So if you don't live in California, search for farms and farmers' markets near you at Local Harvest
and don't forget to ask the powers that be at your supermarket -- big chain store or tiny family operated shop -- to stock what you want them to stock. And tell your friends to ask, too. Demand equals supply. If you have the space and the time to grow your own food, plant a garden. It's currently all the rage. Go ahead, create your own California.