Locavores are usually defined as people who practice eating foods harvested from within an area most commonly bound by a 100 mile radius. Some define the concept as utilizing a concentric circle; utilizing the most local area, such as the backyard garden, for common food items, buying from regional farmers’ markets for harder to locate local items, and then reaching outside of the local community for those items that are unable to grow outside of the immediate community.
Most people assume that the best reason to join the local food movement, as known as becoming a locavore, is to reduce the carbon footprint of food production and transport as part of a sustainable lifestyle.
However, there are many other (and much better) reasons to become a locavore and join the local food movement:
- Consumers will develop a relationship with the growers, especially if consumers are part of a Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) initiative or frequent the local farmers’ market.
- Consumers will start to build connections between the land and the type of farming practices employed locally.
- Consumers are educated about where their food comes from and what is done to their food (humane practices of livestock, use of chemical fertilizers, etc) before it reaches the table.
- Consumers learn about seasonal eating and helps reduce the perceived consumer need to demand all varieties of food within all seasons.
- Consumers will have access to the freshest and highest quality produce available.
- Consumers learn about community and develop an appreciation for a sense of place by learning about what food items the local region is known for.
For those wanting to start eating local the best way to start participating in the local food movement is to focus on one food product. Fruits and vegetables are often a good place to start and the local backyard garden, community garden, or farmers’ market is a good place to start looking. Many grocery stores, especially those that are locally owned, promote items that are locally obtained so that consumers can easily locate items that are part of the local food movement and to support the local economic community.
It is important to understand that local food does not necessarily mean sustainable agricultural practices are employed. Sustainable agriculture involves food production methods that are healthy, do not harm the environment, respect workers, are humane to animals, provide fair wages to farmers, support farming communities, and buying local items as much as possible.
It is still the responsibility of the consumer to research the details of food production and not to assume that local means “the best,” but participating in local food is one of the best ways to start learning about and practicing a sustainable lifestyle.