There are many reasons to try a local food diet. Some people become locavores because they want to support their local farmers and economy. Others want to reduce the size of their carbon footprint and make a positive impact on the environment. People also become locavores for health reasons or simply because they believe that local foods taste better. Many locavores find that their diet helps them learn new things about the food they eat and the community where they live.
Since there is no clear-cut definition of what's local and what's not, many locavores use a 100-mile (160-kilometer) radius as their guide. Supermarket produce purchased by people in the United States travels, on average, 1,300 to 2,000 miles (2,092 to 3,218 kilometers) from the farm to the store [source: ATTRA]. This travel time is called food miles. Food grown and purchased locally accumulates fewer food miles. Produce that is considered local is usually sold within 24 hours of being harvested [source: Eat Local].
Depending on where you live, there are many options for buying local food. Locavores shop at farmers' markets, roadside and farm stands, winter markets, food cooperatives (or co-ops), community supported agricultural groups (CSAs) and sometimes at supermarkets, just like the rest of us. Some local food movement followers even maintain their own gardens.
Farmers' markets are one of the most important shopping venues in the local food movement. Farmers sell their meats and poultry, dairy, eggs, produce and other items to local consumers. Shoppers also have the opportunity to talk to the farmer who grew and produced the food being sold and ask questions about pesticide use and farming methods. The United States has more than 4,000 markets and a 2006 U.S. Department of Agriculture survey found sales at farmers' markets increased from $888 million in 2000 to $1 billion in 2005 [source: CNN].
Food co-ops are more like traditional grocery stores than farmers' markets. However, unlike most traditional grocery stores, co-ops help support local farmers and producers and the local economy. In the United States, about 30 percent of farmers' products are sold through local co-ops [source: NCBA].
Community supported agricultural groups allow locavores to forge relationships with local farmers. Interested parties invest in community farms and, in return, receive weekly baskets of vegetables and other farm products. Some CSAs also ask that members work a few hours a week on the farms during the spring through fall. To find CSA farms near you, look through the listings at Local Harvest.
But not all mainstay fruits and vegetables are in season year-round. To supplement fresh seasonal offerings, many locavores try their hand at freezing, preserving, canning and drying fresh produce during the growing season.
To learn more about local and organic foods and calculate your own 100-mile radius, look at the list of resources on the following page.
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More Great Links
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