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Cooking oil: an unsolved problem in local living


As a thought experiment, imagine what you would eat if you lived in Stokes County and could eat only foods grown within 50 miles. If you had a good garden, you could eat quite well. However, local sources of vegetable oil would be a problem. Our ancestors in these parts relied on butter and lard. However, keeping cows and pigs takes far more land (and effort) than most people can manage. Not to mention that butter and lard aren’t the healthiest fats.

A number of crops can be grown locally that produce good, healthy oil — sunflower and peanuts would be easy. Flax seed would work. Walnuts, if you can get them. But how do you get the oil out of the seeds?

A little research turns up fairly big, expensive, motor-driven units aimed at the biodiesel market, but small, hand-powered devices are almost unknown in the United States. It would be easier to buy a hand-powered oil press in India or Africa than in the United States.

Some people have tried to solve this problem. At, they have plans for an oil press that uses a simple jack with a piston and cylinder that could be easily and cheaply built in a machine shop. The plans originally came from Organic Gardening magazine in 1979.


Hmmm. I wonder if I could barter a little computer work to get a machinist to build me one of those. Press the oil out of sunflower seeds and feed the rest to the chickens.

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