Sunday, January 30, 2011

This Week I Will Be a Locavore

Locavore. Great new word coined in 2005. Oxford American Dictionary word of the year for 2007.

It means a person who eats locally grown and produced food. This food can come from home or community gardens or from local commercial farmers. Since the point of eating locally is to encourage sustainable food practices and enjoy healthier, tastier food, locavores generally care about how food is grown and prepared. Most want to buy from growers who use no or minimal pesticides and chemical fertilizers. While there are many really good reasons to be a locavore, the one that got me willing to try it, is the tremendous cost to the environment of moving food around. Food transportation has become one of the biggest and fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The average food item on an American plate has traveled almost 1500 miles. Even foods grown close by are often shipped hundreds of miles to be processed and distributed and then returned to where they started. Oh, and I also like that local food doesn’t need to be packed to travel, so forget those big plastic clamshells. The exact definition of locavore is open to some interpretation. Most locavores try to keep their food sources to a 100 mile radius. Though, while this might be fine in California, locavores in regions without much agriculture expand their areas. Also, some people pick a just few items to eat locally, at least to start. My plan for this week is to eat as locally as I can as much as possible. I’ll try for the 100 mile radius and to stay conscious of where my food comes from. 

How will I eat locally?
I am fortunate enough to live in northern California, where some of the best produce in the world is grown. So I figure, why do I need cherries from Chile in January? When I was growing up I had no expectations of getting watermelon in the dead of winter. I got food in season. Fruits, vegetables, fish even some meats had a season. We waited for peaches, zucchini, apples and snapper. We ate canned and dried fruits in the winter. This wasn’t all that long ago, but I’ve grown accustomed to making my favorite soup whenever I want with ingredients from all over the globe. I usually don’t think about cooking with what’s available this time of year. I decide what I want and then buy the ingredients. So, change number one will have to be to let what’s in season drive what I make for dinner. I will also try some of these are some suggestions from Jennifer Maiser’s 10 Ways to Become a Locavore:

  • Go to a farmers market.
  • Ask the supermarket manager where their meat, produce and dairy are coming from.
  • 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.
  • Find a local CSA and sign-up! Through a CSA—Community Supported Agriculture—program you invest in a local farm in exchange for a weekly box of assorted vegetables and other farm products.
  • 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
  • Visit a farm. (I’ll probably save this for the spring and take the kids)

Why should I be a locavore?
To start with, local food tastes better. Fruits and veggies can be picked ripe and are often picked only hours before you buy them. Also, tastier varieties are grown when a farmer isn’t trying to maximize for travel durability. Eating local foods also may actually force more variety into my family’s diet. If I can’t get that New Zealand apple, I might try a local purple cauliflower. And I know there are local, healthy choices for bread, honey and cheeses, which I bet are pretty tasty too. I just have to find out what they are. And, as I mentioned above, less travel means lower CO2 emissions and less packaging. A study in Iowa found that a regional diet consumed 17 times less oil and gas than a typical diet based on food shipped across the country.

Originally, I was afraid of this week. But after doing a little research, I’m actually looking forward to it. There were more resources to help me be a locavore than I thought. I went from feeling overwhelmed to feeling excited to try new things. I’ll have some fun with food while doing good for the environment. That sounds like a good week.

Find a 100 mile radius:

USDA’s farmers market guide:

Community Supported Agriculture

There’s an app for that:
The reviews are mixed, but for $2.99 I’d try it – if I had an iPhone

The Worldwatch Institute

“Tikkun Olam” means, in its most basic form, repairing the world. It is an ancient term from long before we worried about carbon emissions or mercury in our fish. It promotes the idea that we are the stewards of our planet and we that must be constant and vigilant in our responsibility. And not only must we take care of the Earth and seas and creatures, but we have to fix what is broken. And this is our job for as long as we are on this planet.

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