Lakes Country Blue Zone?

Yesterday I listened to a podcast with Dan Buettner (a MN Native) about his work on Blue Zones, those places in the world with the greatest longevity. Although I had heard about the work many years ago, listening to him brought home the point that health doesn’t come from our individual habits alone, but the environment in which we live.

Sardinia Blue ZonesPlaces like Sardinia and Okinawa produced more centenarians not because they have really motivated people who bought a lot of Jane Fonda videos and worked out a lot. No, these places produced health in a population because their culture and environment naturally mandated physical exercise, a plant-based diet, and social connection. In Sardinia 50 years ago, most were too poor to eat meat daily and everybody had daily tasks that keep them moving like gardening and watching over animals. Moreover, people lived in a tight enough community that you couldn’t just be anonymous – your neighbor would ask why you weren’t at church last Sunday (whether you liked it or not).

I find this stuff fascinating and it made me think about my own patterns and environment in which we live. This morning, I took their ‘longevity test‘ and learned that I could add 8.6 years to my life by doing the things I already know I should be doing – dropping junk foods (yes, the organic vegetable grower suffers with this too) and incorporating more whole grains and beans.

The research and test got my thinking about our community too. Looking around our food environment with a critical eye, I can find loads of places for improvement, but I also think that Lakes Country is positioned to be the Blue Zone of the Upper Midwest. We are surrounded by recreation, nature, and a bunch of walking trails like the North Country Trail are coming online. There is a sense of ‘small-town’ community still that does engender involvement and volunteering…like Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street, a person can’t hide from their neighbors. In our food landscape, I see the success of  Manna Food Co-op in DL and the traffic at our farm stand as good signs.

If we only could tilt our images of lakes country a bit, I think we can get into blue zone territory. Associate an ‘evening on the lake’ more with a rowboat or kayak instead of a boozy pontoon ride. Or fresh salads in season rather than just burgers and mayo-drenched noodles when we think of a picnic. It’s possible. I can see it.

In the box:

  • Trinity Sweet Corn: This is barely ready…I’m sure some are a bit too immature (depending on how you like your corn), but I found enough ripening this morning that I needed to start the harvest.
  • Green Cabbage: Keep an eye out for cabbage looper worms. I did my best to take them off, but they are expert at hiding.
  • Bunch of Beets: If you’d like to try them roasted –
  • Green Beans: Keeping with the Blue Zones theme…
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Italian Parsley
  • Broccoli
  • Islander Purple Pepper: This pepper works best eaten fresh since it loses its color when you cook it.
  • Sweet Onion
  • Cucumber

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