What does going Localvore mean? To quote the Rutland Area Farm & Food Link: “participants agree to eat only foods grown within 100 miles of home. Some people make exceptions for spices and leaveners (like yeast). Some also take “wildcards” for non-local foods that life is miserable without. Coffee is popular. An Eat Local Challenge is a powerful learning tool for exploring the diversity of local foods in our region. It’s a way to break from our routines and learn what more is possible.”
NOFA VT maintains a list of Localvore Pods around the State, and the Mad River Valley Localvore Project site is particularly inspiring. The website has tons of current news, links to recipes, maps of the “foodshed”, etc. The page titled What is a Localvore and Why Should I Care says it all – and I won’t repeat it here, but it’s definitely worth reading.
If you live in VT going local for a month in the summer should be easy for these reasons (from the Middlebury Farmer’s Market website):
- Vermont is leading the United States in the number of farmers markets per capita.
- Vermont has the most CSAs, the most certified organic farmers, the greatest amount of certified organic farmlands, and the greatest number of local dollars spent buying local foods.
- Greatest number of astisan cheesemakers per capita.
- Largest producers of maple syrup.
- Vermonters lead the nation in per capita production of dairy products.
And if you don’t live in VT, never fear, Farmer’s Markets are experiencing a boom across the country. Check out this excerpt from Bill McKibben‘s Baccalaureate Address at Dartmouth College, June 11, 2011:
“Look at what’s happened in the last 20 years to the food economy in this nation. We discovered the idea that we like to be getting food from our neighbors. Farmers’ markets have been the fastest growing part of our food economy, and it is now reached the point where the USDA said last year that for the first time in 150 years, there were more farms in America instead of fewer. That most deeply embedded American trend had actually bottomed out and reversed. We’re beginning to really understand that those connections are so important, not only for ecological reasons. It’s obviously better to have a five-mile tomato than a 2000-mile tomato, not only for culinary reasons. I traveled 2000 miles this week, I know how I feel; that’s how the tomato feels also.
“But most of all because it’s a different experience. A pair of sociologists followed shoppers a few years ago, first around the supermarket and then around the farmer’s market. You all have been to the supermarket, you know how it works. You walk in, you fall into a light fluorescent trance, you visit the stations of the cross around the outside of the supermarket, that is it. When they followed shoppers around the farmer’s market, they had on average 10 times more conversations. Not 10 percent more, 10 times more. The only odd thing, of course, is that we’ve convinced ourselves we’ve come up with this brilliant new idea, the farmer’s market is chic. And this is how all human beings shopped for food until 70 years ago and how 70 percent of the world still does. Of course we like it, it’s who we are. We are social creatures.”
I’m particularly intrigued by the social aspect of eating local – the idea that buying food from our neighbors helps us stay connected within a community. Back in the 90s when Tim and I sold herbs and edible flower salad at the farmer’s market in New Mexico, it was the social aspect of it that we loved the most. We experienced it on a grand scale when we visited France and spent a few weeks with a family there in 1998. Shopping for food at the local farmer’s market was a window into the cultural history of the community. They had developed a relationship with their produce grower, their butcher, their cheese maker, their bread baker, and the menu for the week was built out of those conversations, strolling from one to the next. And it was beautiful – the foods were carefully arranged to show off their shapes and colors (just like they are in the Atwater Market in Montreal), and flowers are integrated into most stands. Food slows down, becomes art, becomes conversation, becomes more valuable.
So I encourage you to try doing a Localvore Challenge – take the time necessary to visit the farmer’s market each week, make it a family ritual, get to know your neighbors and experience slow, beautiful, tasty food.