What are locovores?

History of Locavores

Locavores often buy their food at market stalls like this one in Toronto.
Locavores often buy their food at market stalls like this one in Toronto.
Jean Heguy/Getty Images

­The locavore movem­ent began on World Environment Day in 2005 in San Francisco. Inspired by ecologist Gary Paul Nabham's 2001 book "Coming Home to Eat," four Northern Californian woman -- Lia McKinney, Jessica Prentice, Ded­e Sampson and Sage Van Wing -- began calling themselves "the locavores" and kicked off a month-long dietary challenge they called "Celebrate Your Foodshed: Eat Locally."

­The easiest way to define a foodshed is to compare it to a watershed. While watersheds outline the flow of water to a specific area, foodsheds outline how food flows to a specific area. Because today's foodshed spans the globe, our food can travel thousands of miles before we eat it [source: FoodRoutes].

The Californians' local challenge introduced the ideas of eating within a small foodshed and supporting sustainable agriculture to a wider audience. Sustainable agriculture encourages using renewable resources to increase farming profitability and improve environmental and socioeconomic health. It's a key aspect of the local food movement.

However, the locavore movement didn't really begin to gain attention until James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith began blogging about their year-long adventure eating foods grown and produced within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of their home in Vancouver. The pair's experience ultimately culminated in a book, "Plenty: One Man, One Woman and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally."

While it's difficult to get a sense of how many people across the country are trying to become locavores, the idea is gaining mainstream attention. Schools are even beginning to get in on the action. In 2002, 400 school districts in 22 states provided students with locally grown food in their cafeterias. By 2007, more than 1,000 districts in 35 states were participating [source: Burros].

In the next section we'll explore what locavores eat and find out if there are any pros and cons to eating locally.