Most of us are familiar with the terms “carnivore” (meat eater), “herbivore” (plant eater), and “omnivore” (plant and meat eater). But how about the term “locavore”? Coined on Earth Day 2005, locavore refers to someone who eats primarily food grown or produced as locally as possible. In 2007, it was crowned Oxford American Dictionary’s “word of the year.”
While some locavores define “local” as within a 100-mile radius of their home, others establish parameters that are more loosely defined, depending upon where they live and their access to certain types of foods year-round. Not everyone lives near a coffee plantation, for example, so some locavores might purchase coffee from a local roaster who imports the beans.
With minimal effort, however, most people can incorporate locally sourced produce, eggs, meat, honey, and fish into their diets.
Why go to that effort, you might ask, when grocery stores have an abundant selection of the above items? Well, let’s consider your next salad: If you purchase all the ingredients (organic or not) at a grocery store, chances are they are a few weeks old. Your tomato would have been picked while it was still green, transported several hundred miles, and sprayed with ethylene gas to hasten ripening.
Although many fruits and vegetables produce ethylene gas (a naturally occurring hormone) in the ripening process, artificially inducing ripening results in a tomato that’s red but not necessarily ripe, and tastes … meh. Compare the taste of that tomato with a freshly picked heirloom variety such as Cherokee Purple or Green Zebra from a local farm. Your taste buds will know the difference!
Then there’s the lettuce. Store-bought lettuce—a staple in many refrigerators—is highly susceptible to bacteria such as E. coli. Because it is a ground-hugger, it absorbs an immense amount of groundwater, which can be laden with pesticides. From 2019 to 2021, the Centers for Disease Control issued nine multistate warnings related to leafy greens. Six were linked to prepackaged salads. One was linked to romaine lettuce, and another pertained to baby spinach.
Aside from safety concerns, store-bought lettuce also has a short shelf life. How many times have you reached into the plastic bag or container only to discover that your spinach or spring mix had turned to mush?
Whether you’re interested in building a better salad or rethinking your overall diet, locavores cite several benefits to eating locally grown food:
It tastes better
Locally grown food tastes better because it hasn’t spoiled on its way to your plate and lost its nutrients.
Food that has not been shipped from afar is fresher, more nutrient dense, and less susceptible to contamination from multiple points of processing and handling. Studies also show that consuming locally grown products—particularly milk and honey—helps build resistance against local allergens.
It’s good for the planet
When food travels a shorter distance from field to fridge, it greatly reduces the carbon footprint that would have occurred if it had been transported across the country or from other parts of the world via truck, plane, or ship. Also, by purchasing products from local certified natural growers or organic farmers, you can help maintain farmland and green space in your community.
It reduces waste
When food is grown locally and gets to your table more efficiently, there is less spoilage and less packaging required for transportation. A typical trip to the grocery store often results in the tossing of food packaging, plastic bags, twist ties, and more into the garbage and, ultimately, a landfill. Even recycling these items where possible is a worse option than bypassing the packaging altogether.
It helps the local economy
Supporting local growers means your dollars are helping to sustain those who live and work in your community. And by seeking out growers who support ethical labor practices and fair wages for their workers, everyone prospers.
It fosters connections
There are psychological and social benefits to establishing relationships with the people who supply your food and those who share similar attitudes about eating healthy food. Whether you’re at the farm stand or farmers market, vendors will begin to know your preferences for certain items and make sure you are clued in on their availability. They can also educate you about growing methods and other products you may never have sampled before.
In addition to the afore- mentioned advantages of being a locavore, Indian River County farmers point out another: Supporting local agriculture is vital to our food security. “We live in a food desert here,” says Mark Smith, owner of Aunt Zorada Farm. “We’re too dependent on the conve- nience of the grocery store. When the Publix trucks quit running, we run out of food.”
“By supporting the local food system, we help strengthen agriculture in our community, which means more nutritionally dense food and a sustain- able distribution system,” adds Catherine “Cat” Sheetz, co-owner of Pueo Farms and Treasure Coast Harvest, a virtual farmers market. “Wouldn’t it be great if Indian River County was 100 percent self- sufficient?”
Want to Eat Like a Locavore?
- Shop at local farm stands, farmers markets (in person and virtually), and grocery stores that feature locally grown food. Treasure Coast Harvest (tcharvest.com), and the Vero Beach Farmers Market go a long way toward showcasing the variety of nutritious foods local growers can provide.
- Support stores that sell locally made products, restaurants that purchase locally grown food, and establishments, such as craft breweries, that incorporate locally grown ingredients in their products.
- Join a CSA (community-supported agriculture) farm in which members pay a fixed amount in ex change for regular access to fresh produce. For $100, members of Five Acre Farm in Vero Beach get a seasonal produce item each week; first dibs on popular items, such as local eggs; and free
classes on topics such as orchids, beekeeping, and growing tomatoes, throughout the year. A portion of membership fees is used to provide fresh produce to nonprofit organizations throughout Indian River County.
- Order a weekly farm box. Five Acre Farm offers its Fresh Farm Box, which costs $30 and contains roughly 8 to 12 seasonal items predetermined by the farmer. The boxes are delivered to your doorstep every Thursday for a $10 fee or are available for pickup at the farm on Saturdays.
- Dig in and start your own backyard or community garden.