Localvore, Locavore,
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The Heart of New England
Are You a Localvore?
By Lou Anne McLeod

By the time most food reaches our table it has traveled over 1500 miles.  How’s
that for a commute?  To get the food to you as cheaply as possible, industries
and factory farms that supply much of the food you buy at your local
supermarket rely on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, genetically modified
seeds and underpaid workers. Food transported across country has obvious
implications in terms of gas, oil and the corresponding pollution.   While this
system may provide inexpensive food, it costs our communities and
environment much more than the price paid at the checkout counter.  As more
and more of our food is produce by agribusinesses, we are losing over 300
local farms every week!  With the loss of each farm we lose not only the fresh
produce they provide but also a part of our national heritage, the scenery and
a habitat for wildlife.  Dollars spent at a supermarket chain leave the
community immediately, whereas dollars spent locally stay in the community,
benefiting people who live and work there, which includes you!

In response to some of these concerns, for a week last August and again in
January I took a challenge and became a
“localvore.”  Localvores was what we
called our group who ate only foods produced locally within a 100 mile radius
of our homes in the Upper Valley.  While each member of our group had their
own reasons for taking the challenge, I think ultimately we all shared these
concerns about the nutritional value and safety of the food we eat and a desire
to promote our local economy and farming neighbors.

Buying locally gives you a closer connection to the food you eat.  You can
plan an outing to pick berries or apples with your children.  You can visit a
farm that raises the dairy products, meat and poultry you eat and feel better
knowing that the animals are being treated humanly.  

While it’s a noble cause to buy local, you might wonder if the variety of food
available in the Northeast is adequate to provide a balance diet, even for a
week.  Well, for starters, there’s a big difference between eating locally in the
summer and eating locally in the middle of a New England winter!  In August
we had an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetable to enjoy.  Throughout the
year we have organic milk, yogurt, delicious cheeses and eggs as well as
honey and maple syrup.  These are also many local farmers who raise poultry,
pork, lamb, beef, and even buffalo.  

We found a limited supply of whole wheat flour, wheat berries and some
dried beans, but weren’t successful in finding local oatmeal, rice or rye flour.  
In August we tried to be purists and eat only what was available locally.  This
meant that we went without items like coffee, tea, pepper, spices and peanut
butter, which I missed even more than my morning cup of tea.   We began to
relate to childhood history lessons about Columbus’s travels to foreign lands
to find spices to liven up otherwise bland dishes.  At one point our supply of
Maine sea salt was running low and after a bit of bartering one group member
commented that now she understood why a pilgrim might walk ten miles into
town to buy salt.

For the January challenge we allowed ourselves some “wildcards,” which
meant we could add in a few items such as spices, coffee, tea or leavening
agents.  Those of us who knew we were going to try this again in January
planned ahead with some canning and freezing of the summer and fall
harvests.  Some had purchased a winter share of a Community Support
Agriculture (CSA).  A CSA is a process where the customer and the farmer form
a partnership.  The customer agrees to pay for a share of the farmer’s crop at
the beginning of the season, thereby providing the farmer with more financial
stability.  The customer gets a steady supply of fresh vegetables at a much
lower price than they would pay at a supermarket.

While the weeks required a bit of work, we also enjoyed ourselves.  Each week
started with potluck dinners where we all brought our tastiest local dishes.  
We dined on Spanish tortillas, apple pie made with maple syrup, whole wheat
tortillas, vibrant salads, delicious cheeses and pots of mint tea and glasses of
chilled apple cider.  Throughout the weeks we encouraged each other and
shared our successes and failures, via phone calls and e-mails.

At the end of each week I felt as if my body was thanking me for a week free of
chemicals and caffeine.  I felt good that through this effort and through
encouraging others to eat locally, we were in a small way supporting our local

So how about you, could you become a localvore?  If you’d like to learn more
about  starting a group in your area or just try some great recipes check out the
Valley Food and Farm website at:

About the author

Lou Anne McLeod lives and works in Lebanon, New Hampshire, where she is
involved in several community organizations, which promote simple living
and local agriculture.  She will be serving up samples of some locally grown
treats at the Lebanon Farmers' Market beginning in June.
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
Localvores - Eating Close to Home
Lou Ann McLeod
©The Heart of New England online magazine
...celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont!
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