It’s easier to view locavorism as a lifestyle rather than a diet. Diets are time-bound, one-off, intensive commitments that are fleeting. Lifestyles stick around for, well… life.
These ‘rules’ are by no means all-encompassing. These are the basic guidelines by which I make my day-to-day food decisions. Feel free to invent your own. Depending on your geography and lifestyle, your choices might be very different.
Rules for Living la Vida Locavore
Fruits & Vegetables
In California, there’s no excuse not to eat locally and in season. We have fresh produce year-round. In other states, canning and freezing help preserve summer’s bounty through the cold winter months.
While many small local farmers are humanely raising chickens, pigs and cows, I make the personal choice to eat a vegetarian diet, as studies have shown this is the most planet-friendly diet. At Thanksgiving and holidays, I’ll purchase locally-raised meat to feed my family. I avoid any meat from a factory farm and only buy organic meats.
Seafood has become a very controversial food. Some food service companies have entire teams devoted to staying abreast of sustainable fishing practices. How far out to sea did the boat travel? Did they use a line or a net to catch the fish? Was it wild or farmed? While I often conduct my own research or use the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide, I also have access to a local fish counter, named one of the best in the nation for sustainability. I let them do most of this hard work for me.
California has an abundance of local dairy options, including raw milk. For me, hormone-free dairy is more important than buying local dairy. If I have to choose between local with hormones or from Oregon hormone-free, I’ll choose hormone-free. Luckily, I don’t often have to make that choice in this state.
Organic vs Conventional
Not all organic options are affordable. I use the Environmental Working Group’s list of the Dirty Dozen to ensure I’m making choices that are safest for my health and the health of the planet.
Spices, Chocolate, Teas & Coffee
I cook, so having access to spices is critical. I try to buy these from locally-owned businesses and look for fair trade labels when I can.
Rules vary regarding how far your food can travel and still count as “local.” Many locavores choose to shop only from providers located within 100 miles of their town. Others stretch this to 150 miles. Farmers’ markets have their own standards for the distance a farmer can travel, so I tend to let them make those choices for me. For items I can’t find at the market, if the label says “California grown,” I prefer that over something from the East Coast. I also favor West Coast products over those from the east or internationally.
I buy most of my clothes, cloth napkins, and dishes at the thrift store. The funds go to local charities, and I keep these goods out of a landfill. I also try to buy new items from local shops and boutiques to avoid big chain stores when possible so I can keep those dollars circulating locally.
Make Your Own Rules
As you can see, I’m a pretty laid back locavore. It’s a lifelong choice, and it has to be practical. Your approach to living la vida locavore might be much stricter or much more lenient. Start with what feels comfortable to you and build as you go. The main thing is to remain Awake at the Whisk, conscious of the food choices you make, and an active participant in our food system.