Are you intrigued by the buzz on locavores? A locavore is someone who eats food that is locally grown and produced. It’s a fairly new lifestyle that is slowly being embraced by millions of people around the world. Being a locavore is not only about being mindful of the food you eat, but also about helping the local community, particularly the farmers.
In this article, we take a look at how the locavore lifestyle started, how it evolved, and why people are adapting to it. We also share tips on how you can become a traveling locavore.
I’ve been a proponent of eating and shopping locally ever since I began to understand the impact my food, clothes, and everything else I buy has on the environment when it has to travel thousands of miles to get to me. I try to buy my produce at farmer’s markets, do most of my clothes shopping at thrift stores, and dine out at local restaurants. But it isn’t always easy. While I wholeheartedly support the concept of being a locavore, I need variety. Try as I might, I’m just not happy eating the same kind of locally-grown apple every day or even wearing my favorite sweater from Goodwill each week.
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The locavore movement, defined as trying to eat only food grown or harvested within a 100-mile radius of your home, started in San Francisco in 2005 as a challenge for people in the Bay Area. The movement grew quickly and in November of last year, Oxford University Press named “locavore” its word of the year. While it may grow tiresome eating the same foods in just your area, there are infinite possibilities when you learn how to become a traveling locavore.
The locavore lifestyle started in 2005, during the celebration of the World Environment Day in San Francisco. Chef and writer Jessica Prentice is credited for coining the word locavore, which first saw print in the San Francisco Chronicle. Prentice was with three other Northern Californian women who were behind a month-long dietary challenge that encouraged people to eat locally. Prentice and her cohorts were the subject of an article that reporter Olivia Wu wrote about eating locally grown foods.
Wu asked Prentice to come up with a catchy way of describing people who were into eating locally grown food. In a blog post that she wrote for the Oxford University Press in November 2007, Prentice explained how she came up with the word.
She explained that locavore is the combination of two Latin words—locus which means place, and vorare which means to swallow. Thus the word literally means to ‘swallow a place.’ A few weeks after Wu’s article was published, many websites and organizations started to use the said word.
But even before 2005, there have been other people who have previously promoted eating organic food. In the 1970s , the concept of using seasonal and locally grown items was introduced by chef Alice Waters in Berkeley, California with her bistro, Chez Panisse. In 2001, ecologist Gary Paul Nabham published a book titled “Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods” which inspired Prentice and her buddies to adapt the practice of eating locally grown foods.
Still, it cannot be denied that Prentice’s coining of the word locavore gave the eat-locally-grown-food movement a huge lift as there was now a proper noun to describe the lifestyle.
The word was so popular that in 2007, the Oxford Dictionary named as it as the “Word of the Year.” Since 2005, a lot of people have gotten into the bandwagon. In 2014, a Greendex survey conducted by the National Geographic in partnership with research consulting company GLobeScan looked into the food consumption habits and attitude in 19 countries.
The survey found that there has been a significant improvement in the eating habits of people. For instance, consumers in South Korea, Australia, Canada and Hungary had higher food scores compared to the results of the previous survey. More interestingly, over 50 percent of consumers in the said countries are now eating locally grown food. The biggest locavores on the planet are the Russians, where 77 percent of the population consumes local food several times a week. They were followed by the Indians and the Chinese.
The ‘eat locally grown food’ movement has also become bigger in the United States, a country that is notorious for fast food. A year after the locavore movement was born, farmers’ markets have become fixtures across the country. In 2006, the United States Agriculture Department noted an increase of 50% in the number of such markets with sales reaching $1 billion.
Eight years later, the number of farmers markets in the U.S. had increased to more than 8,000 from the nearly 5,000 recorded by the USAD. And the department has credited the increasing public awareness on eating locally grown produce as the main reason for this surge.
By now you may be wondering—what are the foods you can eat, and the foods you must avoid if you were to adapt this lifestyle? The common rule among locavores is that anything they eat should have been sourced at least 100 miles from the point of purchase or consumption. So, if you live in Los Angeles, there is absolutely no way you should be eating a lobster from New Orleans, or a cheesecake from New York. Aside from that rule, you can choose whatever food you want to eat. You may even choose to be a vegetarian.
There are also no dietary restrictions imposed in locavore diet. Locavores can generally be classified in three general types—ultra strict, wild card, and those who follow the Marco Polo rule. The ultra strict locavores avoid all ingredients that have not been produced or grown locally. On the other hand, those who follow the Marco Polo rule add dried spices into their diet, or food that sailors can carry along while at the sea. The wild card locavores are the most liberal when it comes to their diet.
They include ingredients like coffee and sugar into their diet, believing that they can’t live without eating these foods. Locavores usually shop at farmers or green markets. They also join community-supported agriculture outlets to by products directly from the farmers. Becoming a locavore is easy. According to the original Locavores, here’s how you should prioritize your food buying to have the lowest environmental impact:
- locally produced
- family farm
- local business
- terroir (which means “purchase foods famous for the region they are grown in and support the agriculture that produces your favorite non-local foods such as Brie cheese from Brie”)
- always buy from a farmer’s market before supermarket
Why People Choose the Locavore Lifestyle
Now another question that you may be asking is—why do people have to be conscious of where their food comes from? And why should you choose to have a locavore lifestyle? There are many reasons why a lot of people are into eating locally grown foods. One of the main appeals of the locavore lifestyle is that it can assure that the food one is to eat is fresh.
Since locavores demand that their foods are grown within 100 miles from where they live, they are certain that whatever they eat is fresh. The taste of the food that is grown locally is a lot better than those which are sourced from other states or countries. Products that are picked and eaten while at the height of their freshness just taste a lot better. And since locally grown products are fresh, one can therefore conclude that these produce are more nutritious.
Locally grown foods are guaranteed to be more nutritious than processed foods. Studies have proven that nutritional values dramatically decline as time passes after harvest. Foods imported from far-away countries are older and have sat in distribution stores before arriving at your kitchen for cooking. There are even Green Locavore iPhone Apps
When you buy from farmers and local growers, you’ll have a better idea on how the food was grown. You can even ask the farmers themselves how they raised and harvested their products. That is something you can’t do when you buy processed food, as you don’t have any idea how the makers raised, harvested, and canned their products.
And with the practice of adding preservatives, you just can’t be sure of the purity of processed foods. Locally grown produce not only have the advantages in terms of nutritional value, freshness, and taste. The demand for these products also affects the local economy. When you buy products directly from the farmers, you are contributing to the growth of the local economy.
The money you use to buy imported products end up in the coffers of a large company in another state or country. But when you source your foods from a local farmer, the money would be kept within the community. Thus you’re not looking after your health and your loved ones, but you are also contributing to the health of all sectors of the local economy.
Supporting locally grown products is also another way to help protect Mother Earth. Locally grown produce use less resource such as paper for packaging and fuel for transporting. And we all know about the global awareness to limit the consumption of paper and fuel. So when there are more people buying from farmers, there is a lesser demand for paper, fuel and other valuable resources.
Of course, there are also disadvantages of buying local. Perhaps the most obvious disadvantage is the cost, as organic foods are notorious for being more expensive compared to processed foods. But that is quite a small price to pay when you consider all the good things you’ll get from consuming locally grown produce.
Becoming a Traveling Locavore
Luckily for me, I love to travel. And I can be a locavore by eating foods produced within 100 miles of wherever I am – be it Buenos Aires or Bangkok. As a traveling locavore, you get to visit amazing places, experience exotic cultures, and dine on delectable local food – all while supporting the local economy and making earth-friendly eating choices.
When you’re at home (wherever home may be), you have a limited number of different local foods. But when you travel around the world, you’ll discover delicious (and sometimes not-so-delicious) local foods you didn’t even know existed. WWOOFing is another great way to be a traveling locavore
But can you imagine how more exciting it is to try the products of other states and countries? If you want to embrace the locavore lifestyle but worried about the limited variety of food in your area, you can explore other states and countries by becoming a traveling locavore. Becoming a traveling locavore has its benefits. One is that you will get to visit amazing places. You’ll also get immersed in the cultures of the countries that you are visiting. And think of all the delectable local food that you can try.
A more noteworthy benefit is that being a traveling locavore enables you to support the local economy. There are a lot of places that you can explore, and manu foods to enjoy when you become a traveling locavore. The Internet is the best way to research on the foods that you can buy and cook when you are visiting a certain area. Look for nearby farmers markets in the place that you are staying. Then visit these markets and shop for locally grown produce that intrigue you.
Since you would have to cook the foods that you purchased, it’s only practical that you stay in a place where there are cooking facilities. It also helps to be friendly with the locals, so you can ask them where farmer markets are situated.
If you intend to keep your visit within the North American region, you can check out websites like eatwellguide.org where you can see a listing of markets, farms, and restaurants that serve local food. If you are heading to Canada, visit the website www.greeneggstoronto.ca which hosts a database of local foods in Ontario. You can also enjoy locally grown produce when you dine in at locavore restaurants. You would be surprised at the increasing number of locavore restaurants worldwide.
A quick Google search should give you an idea on the restaurants you must visit if you want to take a sampling of local foods. You can also check out the reviews on the locavore restaurants that you are interested in visiting. Websites like Trip Advisor, Yelp, and even Facebook allow anyone to write reviews on establishments such as locavore restaurants. By reading customers reviews, you will have an idea on which meals to order, and how much you are likely to spend.
You may even ask your travel agency or tour guide if they know any restaurant that serves only locally grown foods, or if they are familiar with any farmers market in the area that you are visiting.
If you’re the techie type, you can use your IPhone to find a locavore restaurant in the place that you are in. There’s the Locavore app that helps you find organic foods near your area. It also supplies you with daily updates on your favorite vegetables, fruits meats, and dairy, as well as tips on how to cook them.
In case you’re in another state, check out the Farmers Market Finder that instructs you how to go to the nearest farmers market and locavore suppliers in at least 10 states. And when you are shopping for fruits and vegetables, it pays to have the Harvest app. This is a reference app that teaches you how pick the freshest and most delicious fruits and vegetables.
As you can see, becoming a traveling locavore is easier as you think it is. There are lots of farmers markets that you can go to in the United States as well as in other parts of the world. The number of locavore restaurants is also increasing. And there are several apps that you can install on your smartphone and tablets that can help you find a locavore restaurant or farmers market.
With all these things going for you, there’s really no reason for you not to become a traveling locavore. Becoming a traveling locavore you prioritize your food in the same way, but have the added benefit of experimenting with produce, meat, and dairy products native to the region you’re visiting.