In the world of food, it has become fashionable to eat locally. Part of this is due to an interest in sustainability and eco-consciousness. What this really means is supporting the smaller, local growers and food producers helps to develop sustainability in the local economy while reducing your carbon footprint by eating foods that did not have to travel hundred of miles to get to your table. The term locavore describes those who prefer to eat locally grown and produced foods. The word was coined in 2005 by Jessica Prentice for the World Environment Day and became the word of the year for 2007 in the Oxford American Dictionary.
My husband and I have been locavores since our newlywed days, well before the word even came to be. We live in beautiful southern Ontario, Canada the breadbasket of Canada. This makes it very easy for us to be locavores. We are surrounded by rich, fertile farmland that provides an abundance of local foods year round. We can easily buy an amazing variety of produce, honey, herbs, cheeses, milk, butter, salt, sugar, whiskey, beer, wines, grains, flours, beef, pork, poultry and so much more all grown and produced within a 100 mile radius of our home. In fact, a good portion of the foods we consume that aren't home grown and produced within a 10 mile radius of our home as is our beef, pork, and poultry. For the past 8 years before moving to this house, fresh fish was as close as our back yard. Now we are about 3 miles away from catching some of the best local fish there is - perch, pickerel, bass - and always as close as our boat. This abundance of locally grown and produced foods actually helps to keep the prices down in the grocery stores. We do enjoy coffee, teas, spices and tropical fruits so we are not entirely locavores but about as close as you can get. Even when traveling and at our vacation home, we tend to eat locally grown and produced foods. Not only does this practice support and strengthen the local economy, it saves us money while allowing us to eat better quality, fresher foods.
In some areas of North America, it is not as easy to even come near as close to being a locavore as we are. Certain foods simply are not grown or produced within a 100 mile radius of your home. Something that often is not taken into account is the actual acquisition of foods grown within a 100 mile radius of your home. This usually involves using some type of transportation. There are a few work-around solutions for those foods grown and produced within that range but for those foods that aren't, you either have to substitute with locally grown or rely on imported. There are also work-around solutions for those who rely on public transit or who do not have their own source of transit. Here's a few work-arounds:
- find local growers - The first step for eating locally is to find local growers and producers. These include: flour mills, cheese factories, orchards, farm markets, seasonal farmers' markets, roadside stands, abattoirs, butcher shops, fish mongers, beekeepers and etceteria. An online search will find some but not all of the growers and producers within a 100 miles of your home. Other resources for finding local growers include: family and friends, local library, local radio stations, local newspapers, and the yellow pages.
- join a co-op - Food co-operatives usually involve growers within a certain region. Members can get a better price on locally produced foods through the co-ops because of the greater buying power. So while you may pay a fee to be a member of the co-op you still realize a savings while having greater access to fresh, locally grown foods. Part of the fees goes towards the cost of getting the food to the distribution centre, usually a small building on one of the member's land or in some cases a small commercial building. Each co-op has their own set-up of operation. Some you pay a certain amount to receive a food basket per month while others are almost grocery store style and everything in between. This makes it easy because you only have one location to stop at rather than several farms or other food producers.
- transit - I grew up in a very small town (pop. 2,000). My Mom did not drive so our transportation was walking or a bicycle, twice a year going to the city by bus, and occasionally getting a ride with a family member or neighbour. Yet, our house was filled with an abundance of food grown and produced well within that 100 mile radius of home. In many rural areas of North America, it is very common to make a monthly or bi-monthly stock-up trip. During the time local produce is in season, I often take a day for food shopping. Armed with a list of various local growers to stop at I end up making a huge circle picking up various locally grown foods for ourselves and often for others. If you don't have transportation then put the word out to family and friends who will be willing to pick up a something like a hamper of tomatoes when they go to pick up theirs. If you are within walking distance to any food source, a mile or two radius is fairly comfortable. Increase what you can carry by using a foldable shopping cart or kiddie wagon. In some areas, it may be possible to take a taxis so to save costs, walk there then take a taxis home with your purchases. Those relying on public transit are limited by the transit schedule, the range of the public transit, and the amount they can feasibly carry. In general, unless one has mobility problems, walking within a one mile radius of a public transit stop. Increase what you can carry by using a foldable shopping cart (hold about 50 lb) and backpack. A bicycle will increase the range of where you can easily go to get locally grown foods. It can be equipped with baskets or a small cart to carry home purchases.
- delivery services - My Mom relied heavily on home delivery, not that much was available but it was sufficient for our needs. We had an egg lady that dropped off eggs and chickens, a milkman and various farmers who would drop off a hamper or two of produce when they went through town. Up until a couple of years ago, I still had farm fresh organic eggs delivered to my door as well as locally produced gourmet foods. Milk delivery is still available in some areas. Some farmer's markets offer deliver service as well. In some areas, an independent local delivery service may be available to pick up parcels for you.
- home delivery - Home delivery of foods is via ground courier (eg. UPS, FedEx) or postal service. Years ago, my Mom ordered certain foods through catalogue mail order. Now, many food producers sell online including some within a 100 mile radius of our home. I can order cheeses, salts, sugar, flours and many more food items produced within that range and have them shipped. Most of these food producers offer free shipping if buy over a certain amount as well so it costs me nothing extra, not even the gas if I were to drive there. This is an excellent way to buy local.
- grow your own - It goes without saying that any food you can grow yourself will save you money and it is about as local as you can get. No transportation is needed. In some municipalities you can have backyard chickens in combination with a home garden. There usually is no restriction on raising rabbits for food either. Growing your own sprouts is another excellent option that takes very little space, practically no time or effort, costs almost nothing and yet is a good source of fresh organic food.