Herbivore, Omnivore, Localvore
There's more than one way to be a locavore: Cook in your kitchen, eat at a restaurant, shop at a farmers' market or host a party,
This post is in partnership with Pepsi Refresh Project
It's easy to be lured by the exotic-sounding food from far-flung places, but did you know that some of the tastiest things might be made as near to you as the closest supermarket? Discovering the flavors of locally grown, seasonal food has become a worldwide movement. “We’re just at the tip of the iceberg,” Tracey Ryder, co-founder of the Edible Communities magazines about local eating. “There’s still a lot more ground to cover towards getting people to think about seasonality and sourcing local food.”
Ryder has been passionate about the localvore movement for over a decade. The first Edible magazine kicked off in 2002 (It was for Ojai, California). Four hundred people subsequently contacted Edible’s offices asking for publications for their own communities. Ever since, Ryder has been helping the public embrace their inner locavore, although her advice is to always start small. “Don’t feel guilty if you can’t eat local all the time,” says Ryder. “We’ve learned that if everyone ate one out of 10 meals locally, we could save every small family farm in the country.”
Another step in the locavore direction would be frequenting farmers’ markets. “Go to a local farmers market once a week,” suggests Ryder. “Get to know the people who produce your food.” She directs people towards LocalHarvest to locate resources in their area. Another option is gardening at home. “Even if it’s just two tomato plants in a pot, you’ll find many vegetables grow quite easily.”
Worried going localvore is cost prohibitive? Think of it as giving back. “For every dollar spent in the local food economy, 85 cents stays in the community versus only 15 cents through non-local food,” says Ryder. “What you may sacrifice on price can make a big difference to your community.”
Meet the Farmers
If you love farmers' markets, LocalHarvest Director Erin Barnett suggests joining Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSA are subscription-based membership that allows you to purchase a box of produce directly from a local farm. It's often delivered right to your door. “The consumer gains a real sense of belonging to a farm,” Barnett says. “Additionally, you get extremely fresh, high-quality food.”
Barnett also encourages people to think beyond produce when buying locally. Remember to also look for high-quality meat, dairy products and items such as honey and maple syrup. “Some people think it’s as an all or nothing thing,” she says. “It’s really about paying attention to your food and making conscious choices about where you get your food, the kind of food you’re choosing and what systems you’re supporting.”
If you're not into cooking or can’t make it to the farmers’ market, there are other delicious options are available. Many chefs, like Joseph Gillard of Napa Valley Grille in Westwood, California, are making local and seasonal fare the cornerstone of their menus. “I was lucky enough to grow up on a farm where we raised all our own food,” says Gillard. “That stuck with me when I transitioned into my professional life.”
Gillard also takes his love of local food a step further. He’s set up a CSA program through the restaurant. On Wednesdays, Country Fresh Farms and Country Fresh Herbs deliver a weekly bounty of food to an ever-growing number of customers via Napa Valley Grille. “We don’t profit or take a cut,” says Gillard. “We’re just acting as a facilitator to allow neighbors to get onboard with the localvore movement who might not be able to make it out to farmers’ markets.” Gillard is just one of the many chefs worldwide who are onboard with the localvore movement. And what better way to join a movement than making reservations and dining out?
Host a Locavore Potluck
A great way to sample a variety of local food is throw a potluck dinner. Need some inspiration? In 2010, Aaron Zueck and Robert DuBois decided to bicycle across the United States. They wanted to add an element to the trip that would fuel their passion for the local food movement. Awarded a Pepsi Refresh Project grant, they launched Bikeloc, a traveling potluck where they’d meet people along their 4,521-mile route and learn about regional foods. “It was a potluck across America to bring people in communities together around food they created,” explains Zueck.
Stops were made in 18 towns to partake in potluck dinners made from locally produced food. Bikeloc dinners found community members meeting for the first time around a table, a place conducive to striking up conversations. What Zueck and DuBois discovered was that many people had no idea about where their food came from.
Something else that struck them: a sense of community in America had been lost. “The landscape has changed and farming has changed,” says Zueck. “When people grew and shared their food, there was a much stronger sense of community. We were hoping to foster the idea of bringing a new generation back to how things used to be.” Zueck and DuBois left each town hoping they’d convinced people to take one small step out of their comfort zones. Ready to take one? No bicycle necessary. Reach out to family, friends or neighbors and organize a potluck consisting of local fare. Bon Appetit!
Read more about getting involved in your neighborhood in the GOOD Guide to Your Community.