Locavore. As a nutrition student and local foodie, I’ve noticed lately that when I tend to throw this word around it’s met with slightly puzzled looks or outright questions. I love questions. They mean I’ve piqued someone’s curiosity and now have the opportunity to share. A kindergarten teacher by profession, it turns out my love for sharing knowledge combined with a possibly overly explanatory style might also be a good fit for blogging! Today’s post brings to you the first of many explanatory, or exploratory, editorials from the horizons of Farming Fort Collins. This blog is itself based on the premise of an understanding of locavorism, or the practice of being a locavore. Today’s post defines these words and presents for your consideration their possible relevance in our lives today.
Locavore. Think carnivore (one who eats meat.) Herbivore (one who eats plants.) Omnivore (one who eats meat and plants.) Probably you relate to one of those. At the risk of making you feel like a bunch of kindergartners, I’ll just say that by now you’ve probably figured it out. Loca-vore. One who eats locally. One who eats food grown locally. One who consciously makes the choice to consume foods produced within a relatively small radius from his or her residence, foods from his general geographic area. And locavor-ism? The practice of being a locavore.
Okay. Got that. Now we have to think critically for a minute or two. First of all, why has this concept of locavorism, or eating locally, gained recent buzz? Is it important? Does it matter? Or is it just a trendy, elitist concept? Ah, the issues. Put your critical thinking hats on, folks!
Especially when I’m critically thinking, I like to start by looking for the obvious, the simple, the seemingly complicated boiled down to an essence. Nature’s a good go-to reference for this. Though complex, Nature is not complicated. It is a good measuring stick for us complicating humans when we’re looking for a return to simplicity. So let’s look at nature for an understanding of locavorism. How, exactly, does a mule deer eat, or a bear, or an alligator? Whether carnivore, herbivore or omnivore, each of these animals, in fact all wild animals, are locavores. They are limited to consuming the foods within their ranging distance. A bear probably has a larger ranging radius than does an alligator, but either way, their food energy requirements are met by what their own paws and jaws can bring them.
Okay, so Nature provides obvious examples of the simplicity and natural-ness of being a locavore. But humans aren’t wild animals. We’ve evolved to cultivate and package and process and travel, right? Let’s return for a moment to a simpler time in our history, a time when our palates were driven by Nature. Let’s look at our ancestry, our genetic genealogy. Before cars and Kelloggs and food freighters and cross-country interstates, how did our ancestors eat? The hunter/gatherer populations in our human history were, like wild animals, limited to the foods within their ranging distances. Locavorism wasn’t merely an interesting option; it was survival. If there wasn’t food in your area, you had to move. Hence great migrations across deserts and mountain ranges to find sustenance in the form of fish, wild game, and ecosystems that supported foraging. Eventually as we evolved to cultivation and agriculture, food choices expanded though eating locally remained a constant. Even seventy years to a hundred years ago in this bountiful America of ours, our grandparents and great-grandparents ate primarily the crops they could grow and the animals they could raise, catch or hunt. Eating locally is our heritage. It is what Nature intended. It is, some even argue, our genetic code. It’s only in very recent years that locavorism has become an event, a phenomenon, a movement.
Enter the revolutions of the last century. The second industrial revolution, the agricultural revolution, the scientific revolution, the technological revolution, I’m sure I’m missing something. Revolutions that among other things dramatically shifted once and for all the way we eat as a human species. Revolutions that created shelf life. Revolutions that created cross-country transport. Revolutions that created foods in laboratories rather than on farmland. Revolutions that fed our rapidly burgeoning human population. Revolutions that slowly, almost unknowingly, obscured the locavore landscape from our awareness.
But now it’s returning. This awareness of the option of eating food we grow ourselves, or at least food grown in our neighborhoods by our farming neighbors, is returning. It’s returning thanks to education and thanks to the farmers who saw this day coming decades ago and literally began laying the groundwork for a food revolution. But one side of the story always precipitates the other side. With benefits and advantages and advocacy there must of necessity be pitfalls and concerns and disadvantages. We’ll explore some of these in future posts but for now as an overview and food for thought, here are a few:
Reasons to Love Locavorism:
- Food tastes better
- Food has higher nutrient value
- Food travels fewer miles, hence a smaller carbon footprint
- Supports a local economy
- Builds community and producer/consumer relationships
- Revolves around real, whole foods that support health rather than packaged, processed foods that take away from health
- Eat seasonally
- Taste local flavors when traveling
- Awakens connections with our food and our bodies
- Rekindles connections with the earth
Concerns about Locavorism:
- Food costs more (I think you’ll be surprised!)
- Limited variety
- You can’t feed the planet’s population explosion this way
- Idealistic and elitist
- Local doesn’t necessarily mean organic or sustainably produced
- Can’t provide all of the nutrients needed in a well-balanced diet
- What distances exactly qualify as local?
- I’m from (insert foreign country here) and crave (insert native food here) that I can’t get by eating locally in Colorado!
Here are comments from a couple of Front Range consumers:
Therapist, Mother of Two: I love to support local farmers, eat seasonally and feel connected to the land of my community. There is less variety, but that’s okay. More expensive sometimes.
Wellness Professional: Win-win all around. But what if I live in a climate that doesn’t produce much variety? Should I only eat what’s grown locally anyway?
Business Owner, Husband of Yours Truly: I’ll get my deer right here, thank you very much.
Ruminate on that and let me know what you think! Please, comments are welcomed on this blog and I’d love to hear what you love about being a locavore or what your concerns are, what questions you have. Truth is, your interaction will give me another chance to share, to ramble, to explore.
Farming Fort Collins was designed as a platform for sharing the locavore love. We may not always agree on all points of this concept of eating locally, but we at least now have a common understanding of the context of the blog. Here’s to learning and living and locavoring, y’all!