Go local. Choose local. Buy local. These directives have sprung up on signs all over the shelves of my natural products store. What do these words really mean, and why should I care?
I got some of the answers when I visited my in-laws in Vermont in September. Their Montpelier community had just wrapped up a monthlong "Localvore Challenge." Sure, I knew about omnivores and herbivores, but what the heck are localvores? They are, I learned, people dedicated to eating food grown and produced locally—in the case of Montpelier, within a 100-mile radius of town. I also learned that this can be a pretty easy task during Vermont's plentiful harvest season. The state has many, many farms growing and making a vast array of foods—from fresh cheddar cheese and maple syrup to blueberries, apples, and tons of veggies. How lucky for those from the Green Mountain State—and isn't Vermont also home to Ben & Jerry's ice cream?
On second thought, those pleasure pints surely aren't made entirely with Vermont staples. Maybe the challenge to eat local isn't such a gimme after all.
But it is a worthy goal. Consider this: On average, food is grown 1,500 miles from where it's consumed, according to Carolyn Mugar, executive director of Farm Aid, whom we interviewed for this month's Evolve column.
By eating local, you help the environment by conserving fuel used to transport food. You strengthen your regional economy. And you enjoy tastier bites because local food is often fresher.
Of course, eating local isn't always possible; Colorado, where I live, certainly isn't known for its enormous winter harvest. Nor is it necessarily easy—I know I'd have trouble giving up my daily bowl of banana-topped cereal. Still, it's a good idea to think about your choices and their impact on your community, your health, and the environment.
As a Thanksgiving gesture that I hope continues beyond the month, I plan to express a little gratitude to my local growers and natural foods manufacturers by picking up a few more of their items at the grocery store. If you take up a similar challenge, I'd love to hear about your experience.
Pamela Emanoil Bond
Editor in chief