There's no way around it. In most cases, eating sustainably is probably going to be more expensive and less convenient than simply running down the street to your neighborhood grocery. But if you're interested in where your food comes from and how it gets from the field to your kitchen, here are some Southern California organizations that are making it easier to cook responsibly.
Community Seafood: Though Southern California no longer has the thriving commercial fishing community it once did, three women, Sarah Rathbone, Kim Selkoe and Courtney Dietz, are working to connect 40 to 50 of the remaining local fishermen with home cooks in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. While almost everything you buy at most seafood shops is flown in from somewhere else, this is fish that couldn't be fresher. The catch varies from week to week but includes things such as halibut, black cod and even ridgeback shrimp. They sell at the Santa Monica farmers markets on Sundays and Wednesdays as well as having pickup points throughout the city. Or you can arrange home delivery through Good Eggs and Farm Box LA. http://www.communityseafood.com
Grist & Toll: Southern California was once an important wheat growing area, back before the San Fernando Valley was covered with houses. Co-owners Nan Kohler and Marti Noxon are encouraging the California growers who still remain by buying the grain and then milling it into flour and selling it at their Pasadena shop, located in a light industrial area on Arroyo Parkway just north of the end of the 110 Freeway. The place is new and still pretty bare-bones, but there's a gorgeous wooden grain mill imported from Austria for grinding grain into flour that is then labeled not only with the variety of wheat but also sometimes even the name of the farmer and where it was grown. So far they're open Friday to Sunday. Saturday also features bread made fresh by local craft bakers. http://www.gristandtoll.com
Good Eggs: Can't get to a farmers market every week? Good Eggs is there for you. Already established in Brooklyn, San Francisco and New Orleans and now available in Los Angeles, this innovative Web shop sells fresh fruits and vegetables from farmers markets and food products from local artisans. You can buy strawberries from Jimenez Family Farms, avocados from Mud Creek Ranch and citrus from Cliff McFarlin Organics. And there's plenty of non-produce goods as well, including loaves from Bread Lounge and Red Bread, pork from Cook Pigs Ranch, olive oil, tamales, house-made pies and tofu. Order online and pick up at any of four points in the city, or now you can take free home delivery from El Monte to the ocean for any $30 purchase. http://www.goodeggs.com
Belcampo: Over the last 20 years, there has been a tremendous consolidation in the meat industry, with just a few big companies controlling most of what we buy, leading to fewer, bigger farms and giant feed lots. Belcampo is trying to break that cycle. The first totally vertically integrated meat project in the country, Anya Fernald's Belcampo raises its own animals (grass-fed beef, pork and poultry) on its own ranch near Mt. Shasta, slaughters and processes them in its own facilities, then sells the meat at its own stores, including one at downtown's Grand Central Market and another coming soon in Santa Monica. Each store has a small restaurant attached that will make use of whatever hasn't sold. http://www.belcampomeatco.com