What is a Locavore?

A person who primarily eats local food.

Locavore, or localvore, is a word and a concept dreamed up by a group of American women in San Francisco which, like ourselves at Foodful, aims to promote local, seasonal foods.

It is a food movement which not only connects us to nature but is environmentally-friendly, sustainable and a great way to get involved in the community. Locavore has become more than just a word though. It is has become a way of life for many, shops and restaurants have turned to this ideal and it becomes easier and more accessible with more artisan producers and farmers popping up around the country.

It is easy to suggest that this is another hipster movement harking to the past, but the key principles of eating and sourcing local and seasonal food to eat just make too much sense to disregard.

The movement comes from an anti-establishment philosophy which includes anti-consumerism, ethical buying, sustainable and organic farming as well as loving and supporting our communities.

The appalling conditions of certain farming practices and food processing have to come to light over the past few years regarding the impact on other communities around the world where food is grown, the demand of ‘out-of-season’ foods and also the environmental footprint on shipping and flying food from across the globe.

Farming potatoes
Local farms produce staple crops such as potatoes at Buston Potatoes near Warkworth

Economical, Ecological & Educational

A locally-based diet has the potential to allow food to be food again; a simple luxury and need which is grown with care, awareness and sold at a fair price.

As more clarity is demanded from the public in terms of where our food was grown, how it was treated, whether it is organic and other unanswered questions in the wake of many food scandals, interest has greatly increased in food heritage, local food and supporting local producers.

Eyemouth harbour
Fresh seafood from the North Sea has been an important part of many communities along the coast including at Eyemouth.

Participating in a locavore lifestyle means you are already aware of the impact your diet may be having on the rest of the world as well as at home. A locavore relies upon and supports local farmers, who generally use more ecological farming techniques, which can increase the productivity of the farm, the better quality of crops and animal byproducts and also sustains the farm for the next generation. The produce, too, is also benefitted by short transportation and storage times meaning you get the best quality and freshness you can, without the hassle of growing it yourself.

A Chance to be Social

Eating locally can also be eating socially. You get to know the producers directly and also the middlemen in local shops such as greengrocers or market stall holders. Market stall shopping can also be a social occasion. It’s not very often we invite someone to the supermarket with us, but a market day can be a great excuse for a catch-up whilst bargaining with stallholders and sipping on locally roasted coffee.

food festival in Alnwick
Farmer’s Markets and Food Festivals are a great way to check out local food and drink growers and producers near you.

It is not only farmers markets which have prospered, restaurants and cafes, too, notice a positive effect in sales when advertising local food. The short-chain supply of food from farm or producer direct to a cafe or straight to the consumer can provide a well-supported and funded community.

Re-educating Food Attitudes

Educating children early on with visits to local farms and to markets can interest the young minds with how food comes to the table. Gardening projects in and out of school can further and inspire understanding. Discovering where food comes from and how it grows in its natural habitat can help establish healthy eating habits before food becomes a battle. A boost in this way of thinking could have the potential to halt scares such as childhood obesity, type-2 diabetes and unhealthy attitudes to food which can have devastating effects.

A team working at North East Organic Growers
Joining a community project such as North East Organic Growers gives you a chance to volunteer and reap the benefits of food production.

We have forgotten the time and labour involved in food production. Perhaps taking away some foods because of seasonal availability can re-establish our view as food as fuel and pleasure.

Benefits of a Local-focused Diet

There are many benefits to including more local foods in your everyday diet. The main reasons include eating seasonally, increasing knowledge of food production and knowing the value of food.

Eating local food can even inspire a desire to grow your own and many local farmers and producers would gladly answer questions you have regarding such endeavours.

Buying local food can help with meal planning. Knowing what you will be receiving in a grocery or veg box from a local farm can help reduce the time and cost of preparing food, as well as limit waste, as you have to make do with what you have. It can even be a creative process.

Hexhamshire Organics grocery box
What can you create with your weekly grocery box from Hexhamshire Organics?

Perhaps the biggest benefit to eating local food is the knowledge of where your food comes from and that by eating seasonally you are giving your body what it actually needs to sustain itself. Our bodies require a different variety of foods during the 4 seasons, rather than the same foods for 52 weeks of the year. It is exciting and interesting to discover what our bodies need at certain times of the year and how this affects our bodies performance both mentally and physically.

The Problem With ‘Local’

With every diet or movement, there are downsides. Even with ‘localism’, this can be the case. It can be a difficult transition and one where you have to fully commit in order to achieve. Our diets would have to be significantly altered in terms of portion size and variety to sustain a ‘locavore’ diet. Despite this, on a positive note, it means discovering new and heritage foods. Even the smallest of locally bought purchases can make such a difference to the community you dwell in.

Food Borders

Unfortunately, not all places are habitats for plants which we have grown accustomed to. For instance, in the North-East it is just not possible to grow coffee, tea or chocolate. We also do not have the climate for rice, lemons or bananas (the nation’s favourite fruit!).

Mocha Mondo chocolate bar selection
Made from bean-to-bar, this is the kind of chocolate locavores are attracted to. Made by Mocha Mondo.

The term local as well is ambiguous. There are no borders to suggest a local boundary. Is 10 miles to little, is 100 miles too far? These are personal questions and also depend on what is available within the mileage you set out for yourself. A 10 or 20-mile radius may be possible if you are self-sustainable with vegetables, eggs and milk, but it would not be so possible for someone who isn’t and relies on local markets which bring producers from across the county which is some cases can be around 60 miles.

Resisting Tempting Food Deals

A locavore diet can also be interrupted by inviting deals held at supermarkets. It is difficult in the modern age to avoid going to the supermarket. After all, you will still need to stock up on detergent, kitchen utilities such as tin foil or kitchen roll and bathroom essentials like soap and toothbrushes. One can be swayed to unintentionally purchase out-of-season strawberries and courgettes or an exotic mango but then return home with guilty feelings.

Supermarket
We have become accustomed to food being available throughout the year without regarding the implications of farming and transportation techniques

Another Elitist & Exclusive Movement?

Another argument against a locally-based diet is that it can appear elitist in some form or another. Not everyone has the time to discover new products or cook from scratch every day for every meal. In this cultural climate, it can seem impossible. The cost too for certain products, especially if only organic, small-batch is on offer, can cut into our already limited budgets. However, this could be changed if our attitudes towards food and cost change and we ask our government representatives to take subsidies away from large corporations and instead offer subsidies to small farms and producers who have the potential to feed their communities.

Baskets of food ready at market
Local food shopping can be seen as an exclusive past time for the affluent.

Ecological Concerns

Perhaps the biggest threat to a locally-based diet is that it is not as environmentally friendly as one would like. Transportation to markets for both producers and consumers isn’t ideal. Additionally, the use of heated greenhouses to give foods a longer season, or even to be able to grow non-heritage foods can contribute to the carbon footprint. Animal farming, however, despite its best intentions to give animals a better standard of living and respect in dying, is not only expensive and labour-intensive but also increase carbon footprints. This is perhaps why it is suggested that meat consumption is reduced substantially, as seen by the flexitarian diet.

Autumn veg selection
Some argue that eating meat, wherever it’s from, can’t compete with the benefits of a plant-based diet.

Are You A Locavore?

Foodful is an initiative that highlights local food and drinks growers and producers across Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. Let Foodful help you to discover tempting locally-grown and made foods and see if you can taste the difference.

What do you think of this conscientious consumption movement? Tell us which local foods you love and buy. Join the conversation on social media. Follow Foodful on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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