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Week of 11.2.07

10 Steps to Becoming a Locavore

By Jennifer Maiser

Jennifer Maiser Jennifer Maiser is the editor of the Eat Local Challenge website, which is a place for authors nationwide to share their experiences with finding locally grown and locally produced food.

Locavores are people who pay attention to where their food comes from and commit to eating local food as much as possible. The great thing about eating local is that it's not an all-or-nothing venture. Any small step you take helps the environment, protects your family's health and supports small farmers in your area.

The first step to being a locavore is to determine what local means for you. This is an individual decision that should feel comfortable for you and your family. Many locavores start by trying to eat within a 100-mile radius from their homes and then adjust where necessary, sometimes encompassing an area as large as an entire state or region. The important thing is that by creating a boundary, no matter how large, you are becoming conscious of food's origin. Use this tool to draw a 100-mile circle around your home and guide your food choices.


10 Ways to Become a Locavore

1) Visit a farmers' market. Farmers' markets keep small farms in business through direct sales. Rather than going through a middleman, the farmer takes home nearly all of the money that you hand him or her for a delectable apple or a wonderful bunch of grapes. Need to find a market in your area? Try the USDA's farmers' market guide.

2) Lobby your supermarket. Ask your supermarket manager where your meat, produce and dairy is coming from. Remember that market managers are trained to realize that for each person actually asking the question, several others want to know the same answer. Let the market managers know what's important to you! Your show of interest is crucial to help the supermarket change its purchasing practices.

3) Choose 5 foods in your house that you can buy locally. Rather than trying to source everything locally all at once, try swapping out just 5 local foods. Fruits and vegetables that can be grown throughout the continental U.S. include apples, root vegetables, lettuce, herbs and greens. In most areas, it's also possible to find meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and cheese—all grown, harvested and produced close to your home.

4) Find a local CSA and sign-up! Through a CSA—Community Supported Agriculture—program you invest in a local farm in exchange for a weekly box of assorted vegetables and other farm products. Most CSA programs provide a discount if you pre-pay for your share on a quarterly or yearly basis because a pre-payment allows the farm to use the cash in the springtime when money is needed for farm equipment or investment in the farm. CSA programs take the work out of buying local food, as the farmer does the worrying for you.

5) Preserve a local food for the winter. There's still time! Though we are headed into winter, many areas still have preservable fruits and vegetables available. Try your hand at making applesauce, apple butter and quince paste. To learn about safe preserving techniques, go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

6) Find out what restaurants in your area support local farmers. You can do this by asking the restaurants about their ingredients directly, or by asking your favorite farmers what restaurant accounts they have. Frequent the businesses that support your farmers.

7) Host a local Thanksgiving. Participate in the 100-mile Thanksgiving project by making a dish or an entire meal from local foods.

8) Buy from local vendors. Can't find locally grown? How about locally produced? Many areas have locally produced jams, jellies and breads as well as locally roasted coffee and locally created confections. While these businesses may not always use strictly local ingredients in their products, by purchasing them you are supporting the local economy.

9) Ask about origins. Not locally grown? Then where is it from? Call the producer of your favorite foods to see where the ingredients are from. You'll be amazed how many large processed food companies are unable to tell you where your food came from. By continuing to ask the questions we are sending a message to the companies that consumers want to know the origin of ingredients.

10) Visit a farm. Find a farm in your area and call to make an appointment to see the farm. When time allows, the farmers are usually happy to show a family or a group around the farm. When you visit, ask the farmers what challenges they have had and why they choose to grow what they are growing. Be sure to take the kids along on this journey! Children need to know where their food is coming from in order to feel a sense of connection to their dinner.

Want to know more about why locavores choose to eat local? Check out our 10 Reasons to Eat Local Food.