To me, there are two sides of “healthy eating.” One side is about making sure that you’re getting the proper nutrients – vitamins, minerals, protein, calcium, iron, and all the rest. But the other side has to do with the idea of environmental health: when we eat healthy, we’re not only concerned with our own health, but that of the world around us. That is why I have found myself increasingly drawn to the local food movement.
A Local Foodie is Called a “Locovore”
The newly coined term for local foodie is “locovore.” This means that you concern yourself with knowing your food’s origins, and try to pay special attention to making sure that the food you consume comes from farms as close to you as possible. It is related to macrobiotics in that, for food to be local, it has to be in season. It is therefore more difficult to eat locally all the time in the winter. From early summer to late fall, however, you can eat locally like a king.
Fresh Produce is Gorgeous
I live in New York, and I find that local farms grow a variety of gorgeous, fresh produce that’s widely available here in the area during the growing season. And since it’s local, I know it’s fresh and hasn’t traveled 5,000 miles to get to my grocery bag. This means that it retains more of its nutritional value AND that it didn’t contribute to the pollution from the truck that took it halfway across the country.
Start With Your Local Green Market
If you’re unsure about how to incorporate local food into your diet, don’t worry – you’re not alone. A good place to start looking is your local green market. Most cities have at least one seasonal market; in places like New York, you can find green market food almost all throughout the year. Green markets usually feature a lot of local farmers. Most of the representatives working there are very friendly, and won’t mind chatting with you about their farms and farming practices. You might learn a lot and come home with a big bag of fresh food to boot.
Join the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Another great way to eat locally is to join a CSA. The letters stand for Community Supported Agriculture, which means that everyone in the CSA is basically buying a farm share. The farmer then grows the food and delivers it in weekly or biweekly installments to a drop-off in a designated spot (usually a community center or park), and the members go pick it up.
It’s a great way to eat local food and get to know a farmer’s growing season. Many CSAs also require a few seasonal hours of volunteer work, which means you will get to know your neighbors. If you’re interested in CSA options for your town, hurry to find one and signup, for the season usually ends as the harvest begins in June.
Fresh Meat and Dairy
Local food doesn’t just involve produce, however. Farmer’s market stands and CSAs exist for meat- and dairy-eaters out there as well. Many dairy farms offer a cheese or dairy share, and green markets often feature local meat ranchers with the freshest cuts available. I’m a vegetarian, but I have many friends and acquaintances that obtain this ranch-fresh meat and swear by it. These ranchers are also happy to tell you about the free-range environments they provide for their animals. And local dairy farms offer fresh milk — a yogurt maker’s dream.
I believe local eating is the way to go. It’s a socially and environmentally responsible way to eat, and it reconnects the consumer with the food source. It’s also a good way to get involved in your community.
Maria (Niina) Pollari is a poet, editor, writer and translator. She wrote two chapbooks, Fabulous Essential (2009) and Book Four (2011). Pollari’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and Jezebel.com. She has received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.