What’s a locavore? The word was the 2007 New Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year, and it means someone that eats foods produced locally. And there are some that think it’s a big deal to do so in today’s world.
I think it’s a good thing. The idea is to eat foods that are mainly grown with a certain distance from where you live, like 100 miles. There’s even a local grocery in Dayton, Ohio, that has foods that are within 250 miles of the store, which is great for a market to do.
The push behind this is that we’ve done a lot of our food is grown and processed for convenience and with the shipping times and methods in mind. This means picking things upripe, processing in quantities that provide economies of scale, spending a lot of time and money transporting from huge farms or processing centers to markets, and so on.
One of the advantages I see in being a locavore, over and above the “I’m doing something good for the planet” part (which is actually somewhat debatable) is that I get to talk to the people that produced the food that I’m going to eat. I buy eggs from a farm about 10 miles away, and I’ve seen the chickens that lay those eggs. I go to a farmers’ market, and I get to talk to the farmers that brought in their meats and produce to sell. There’s something about that personal interaction that makes me feel good about the foods I’m eating then.
There are many ways to start becoming a locavore, but I think the easiest is to find a farmers’ market. In Ohio, we have a vast variety, from small towns to large city markets. And don’t avoid the small town markets; I found the best blackberries I’ve ever had out at a tiny town’s Thursday evening farmer’s market. There were only 6 booths there, but these blackberries were incredible! Which brings up another point about being a locavore… Locally grown produce is picked riper than produce that has to be shipped, so it just tastes better!
In bigger cities, though, you’re more likely to find things like swiss chard and baby eggplant, locally grown mushrooms and varieties of grass fed beef or lamb, all humanely grown on smaller farms with more variety than the big commercial farms.
There’s something about a connection with the people that actually were involved in bringing food to market. The anonymity of feedlot meat production means that commercial farming can cut corners, use drugs and hormones meant to keep animals from being sick in an environment in which they weren’t meant to be. I think it’s a different story to face your customers eye to eye and tell them you raised the animals to produce the meat you’re selling. One farmer I’ve talked to showed me the pigs that he raises, in conditions that no one would think are inhumane. There’s just something honest and transparent about that sor tof relationship that can’t exist by using a huge grocery retailer as one of many middlemen.
There are farmers’ markets all over the place. A couple great sources for them is Local Harvest and Farmers’ Market dot com. And most farmers’ markets, at least around here, usually have more than just food; you can find locally raised perennials and herbs, soaps and lots of gorgeous flowers.
I’ve got some shots of Findlay Market in Cincinnati, North Market in Columbus, and the Bowersville Farmers’ Market that’s kind of between the two cities. Some of the shots of Findlay Market were taken with my iPhone, as I forgot my camera that day somehow!
I’d like to hear what your favorite farmers’ market is and why!