Eating like a localvore

Photo: istockphoto.com/Alison Stieglitz
You've heard of carnivores, herbivores and omnivores, but what about localvores? New way to eat Localvores are people who eat only locally grown foods, from farmer's market, roadside stands, out of backyard or patio gardens. Hard core localvores also preserve in-season foods to eat in the winter months. The idea's popularity has grown recently, in part thanks to a number of best-selling books such as Barabara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon's The 100-Mile Diet -- both books chronicle their family's experiences in eating like a localvore for one year. Followers list many attractive reasons to eat locale including supporting local business and farmers, learning more about how your food is grown, and perhaps the best reason, taste. Local produce is undeniably fresh. Testing the waters Strictly speaking there are no hard rules, but if you decide you're up for the challenge, many websites offer helpful resources and guidelines. First, you'll want to decide from within what radius all your food will come from -- in Canada and the U.S. this is commonly 100 miles (161 km). At 100-Mile Diet you can enter your zip or postal code and the website will automatically plot your 100-mile radius. Exceptions to the rule Next, you can decide on whether your localvore diet will include exceptions. Common exceptions to the 100 percent-local rule include spices, coffee, chocolate, oils and locally processed alcoholic drinks. Many organizations encourage and host one-month challenges for beginners. In the U.S. a nation-wide localvore challenge for September was hosted by the blog site, Eat Local Challenge. Smith and MacKinnon themselves have settled into a localvore diet that is about 85 percent local. So there's no need to go extreme if it doesn't work for you. Local can take time When I was young my grandfather knew the best farm to buy carrots and peas, the best guy in the county for raspberries and a little out of the way shop that made cheese to die for. Unfortunately collecting all these tasty "local" treasures took a whole afternoon, if not day, of driving in a full-sized Oldsmobile. Becoming a locavolre can be a bit of a scavenger hunt. Testimonies of those pioneers who braved a 100-Mile meal, week, month or even year often have one thing in common -- a lot of driving. Driving from farm to farm or town to town can make your dinner's carbon footprint add up fast. Critics are quick to point out that local does not necessarily mean a smaller carbon footprint and suggest that large quantities of food shipped by train or plane may be more energy efficient. Winter hardships Localvorism also changes with the seasons and that can be a deterrent for some people, (think January in Northern U.S. and Canada). What seemed like a delicious and conscientious lifestyle in October, may have you staring despondently at bags of potatoes and cans of preserved relishes in February. The struggle to get all your basic food groups along with some variety may send you back to the big box supermarket. But that's where smart supermarket shopping comes in. Can't get it local? Try choosing organic. In some areas certain products are hard -- perhaps impossible -- to get. But, you may still be able to buy some things locally from farmers with winter stock. Both the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association and Local Harvest have listings of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in Canada and the U.S. The organization Equiterre has a listing for farms in Quebec. In the end eating localvore is about encouraging us to change our attitude towards food and make the best choices possible. Embracing the localvore lifestyle for just one month can change your eating habits year round. And about driving to various farms? – well, it turns out my grandfather had another food secret: Make it a family outing -- that Oldsmobile was often packed with children, grandchildren, friends, cousins, as well as assorted fruits and vegetables. Shannon Wilmot is a vegetarian freelance writer based in Toronto who in the course of researching this article learned she grew up semi-localvore.