What’s a “Locavore”? The word “locavore” was coined by Jessica Prentice when, in 2005, she and two other San Francisco Bay Area women, Dede Sampson and Sage Van Wing, hatched a plan to challenge Bay Area residents to eat only foods grown or harvested within a 100 mile radius of San Francisco for the entire month of August. They came up with a catchy name, launched a website, and the movement grew like a zucchini in the summer (Locavore was even the 2007 Word of the Year for the Oxford American Dictionary!).
So what’s considered local? There is no clear-cut definition of what’s local and what’s not, so many locavores use a 100- or 150-mile radius as their guide. Local food includes not only locally grown or harvested fresh fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meat, pastured-raised eggs, and locally-caught seafood; but also locally processed food, such as jams, jellies, pickles, breads, honey, cheese, and more.
Why become a Locavore? There are many reasons to try a local food diet. Some people become locavores because they want to support their local farmers and economy. Others want to reduce the size of their carbon footprint and make a positive impact on the environment. People also become locavores for health reasons or simply because they believe that local foods taste better. Many locavores find that their diet helps them learn new things about the food they eat and the community where they live.
I want to be a Locavore! How do I start? Here are 6 tips to get you started:
1) Choose 5 foods in your house that you can buy locally. Rather than trying to source everything locally all at once, try swapping out just 5 local foods. Fruits and vegetables that can be grown throughout the continental U.S. include apples, root vegetables, lettuce, herbs and greens. In most areas, it’s also possible to find meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and cheese—all grown, harvested and produced close to your home.
2) Buy from your local farm stand. And when you do, talk to the farmer. Find out what’s in season and when, and why they choose to grow what they are growing. Be sure to take the kids along on this journey! Children need to know where their food is coming from in order to feel a sense of connection to their dinner.
3) Buy from local vendors. Can’t find locally grown? How about locally produced? Many areas have locally produced jams, jellies and breads as well as locally roasted coffee and locally created confections. While these businesses may not always use strictly local ingredients in their products, by purchasing them you are supporting the local economy.
4) Shop your local farmers’ market, or food co-op, or mom & pop grocery. Find a local CSA and sign up. Check out the newest way to buy local food through an online “virtual farmers’ market” such as OtterBee’s Market. Check all these options first – before shopping your local supermarket – to source as many foods as possible locally.
5) Find out what restaurants in your area support local farmers. You can do this by asking the restaurants about their ingredients directly, or by asking your favorite farmers what restaurant accounts they have. Frequent the businesses that support your farmers.
6) Wherever you shop, wherever you eat, ask about origins. Not locally grown? Then where is it from? Call the producer of your favorite foods to see where the ingredients are from. You’ll be amazed how many large processed food companies are unable to tell you where your food came from. By continuing to ask the questions we are sending a message to the companies that consumers want to know the origin of ingredients.