Carnivores eat meat, herbivores eat plants, omnivores eat both, and locavores eat anything (as long as it’s grown or raised locally). I finally got to finish Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver during a leisurely week in Lake Tahoe over the summer. I came home excited to try something I’ve been thinking about for a while- being a locavore; buying food that hasn’t been on a truck burning fuel for a thousand miles, food that was grown on nearby family farms or produced by small companies, food that is fresh, in season, and wholesome.
The official definition of locavore suggests that all your food is grown or produced within 100 miles of your home. I’m not going to be that strict during my trial and will consider anything from California “local”.
After traveling for a month this summer, in eight different states, it was a joy to come home to the bounty of organic food available in California, and it was the perfect time for my locavore experiment. Most of the produce I usually buy is grown in our county, and I’ve always loved that, but I’d never actually examined every item in my cart. On my first locavore shopping trip I made my selections based on place of origin. My California options were abundant:
On this trip I also bought peanut butter (product of USA), granola (made just outside our county, but I’m not sure where each ingredient is from), and pinto beans (origin not listed on the bin). I bypassed a few things I normally would have purchased because they weren’t “local”- avocados (USA), lemons (USA), *bananas, and dried mangoes (that one didn’t go over so well with the boys, but my older son seemed interested when I explained the purpose of the project).
*I’ve been using dates and homemade date paste instead of bananas for muffins and smoothies, and they work well for Power Balls.
Power Balls recipe: Mix 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup oats, 1 cup rice cereal, and 1/2 cup date paste (you can make this by filling a jar of pitted dates with enough water to cover them and pureeing them with an immersion blender). Roll mixture into balls, refrigerate on a cookie sheet, and store in an airtight container once cold.
My second locavore trip (to the farmers market) was as local as it gets. I loaded up on berries to freeze for future muffins and heirloom tomatoes for salsa and pizza/pasta sauce.
From here on out, I’ll keep local in mind, especially for produce. I’ll try to stop buying foods from other countries (with the exception of dried mangoes in my kids’ lunches on Thursdays). I might buy USA grown if I can’t find a suitable substitute. But I’ll mostly stay true to The Golden State and the amazing variety of fruits and vegetables grown in Santa Cruz County. For other foods I’ll have to make case by case decisions about what’s most important; organic, local, or unpackaged. And of course *all three* would be the most ideal!
Barbara Kingsolver didn’t just inspire me to be locally minded. She made me feel even better about buying organic and she got me thinking a lot about gardening. Although I was disappointed that we didn’t plant a garden this year, I was also a little relieved. But Animal, Vegetable, Miracle made me look forward to planting some old favorites (and new favorites) next spring. Barbara Kingsolver also reminded me that I can still take advantage of local produce, even if I didn’t grow it myself; that I can stock up on farmers market deals and freeze fruit and make sauce so I can enjoy the flavors of summer into the fall and winter.
If you’ve already read Dude Making a Difference, Zero Waste Home, and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, grab a copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle at your local library. (Or maybe you’ve already read it ’cause it’s almost ten years old. I’m a little behind the times, but I’m sure making up for it this year!)