Happy Earth Month Droppers! April is always full of earth-loving energy and copious ideas for how we can better take care of this planet of ours. As we near the end of the month we wanted to share some tips on how to become a “localvore”, a term coined by Sage Van Wing to mean someone who eats only local foods! In addition to climate concerns, folks are becoming more locally-minded in an effort to support small businesses in the past year. This means that there are more resources than ever before for making this a priority in your home!
Now, how exactly do we define “local” when it comes to tracking where your food is from? Over 750 eco-conscious adults were polled by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University in 2008, and about two-thirds agreed that food couldn’t be considered local if it had traveled more than 100 miles to get to the buyer. This 100-mile rule can be easily achievable if you live in certain climates, but obviously needs to be adjusted when you’re living in more remote environments like the desert. Finding the best definition of “local” for you is the key!
Here’s how to get started:
- Start small. To avoid getting too overwhelmed too quickly, start by choosing a local diet for one week a month, or maybe one day a week! Then you can get a feel for what changes might need to be made if you decide to go long term with this lifestyle change, and you’ll build knowledge on your local resources.
- Learn what’s in season, and build a meal plan around it. As much as we all love mangoes in December, you can bet your bottom dollar that it wasn’t grown locally! Choose to eat produce when it grows, if you can . (Bonus: In-season produce is often less expensive than out of season fare!)
- Shop at farmers markets! You can find farmers markets in your area by searching online or contacting your local tourism office. There are also roadside produce stands, pick-your-own farms, and gleaning programs, which let you come through and pick whatever is left in the fields after the harvesting is done. (Pretty cool, huh?!) Farmers market produce is often less expensive than grocery store produce, contrary to what you may think!
- Join a CSA. This stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is a program where you pay a lump sum directly to a farmer at the start of the growing season in exchange for a share of that year’s crops! Similar programs are food co-ops, member-run grocery store that typically partner with local growers, and you can find a local food co-op online through the Co-op Directory Service.
- Check to see if there is a local section at your supermarket! Certain areas of the country will include this in chain grocery stores, or will choose a sticker to signify when produce has been grown locally.
- Grow your own garden! Starting a home garden takes some consistent work but can be so rewarding and save you big bucks over time. Even if you live in an apartment or a home with no yard, you can use a balcony or a sunny windowsill to grow pots of salad greens and herbs. (Who doesn’t love having fresh mint or rosemary on hand?) Some cities also have community gardens you can participate in which is a lovely way to connect with your neighbors!
- Freeze and store your favorite foods while they are in season. If you know you’re going to crave raspberries in your oatmeal when winter comes, but want to commit to your local eating, freezing them (and other foods) while they’re in season is the way to go! Many foods, such as winter squash, sweet potatoes, and apples, can last for months if they’re stored properly. Search the U.S. Department of Agriculture site to get tips on how to preserve specific produce.
Feeling empowered yet? We hope you are. There are so many resources out there that can help you on your own personal "localvore" quest. We encourage you to check out Local Harvest, where you can enter your city and search for farms, farmers markets, restaurants, and a variety of other resources. Another great tool is, Eatwild, which offers information specifically on pasture-raised meats and other animal products. Happy eating!