Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
December, 2007
Regional Report

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Resolve to support local farms in the coming year and nurture your inner locavore!

The Word of the Year is "Locavore"

It's that special time of year when visions of sugarplums dance, and the New Oxford American Dictionary announces the Word of the Year. The 2007 Word of the Year is ... drum roll, please ... "locavore."

The selection of this word honors the new, or renewed, trend of eating foods that have been grown and produced near one's home. Before the introduction of refrigerated shipping containers, people grew most of their own food or bought it from local farmers. Food shipped from faraway lands wasn't affordable, or even available. It's only been in the last few generations that consumers have been buying produce and processed foods shipped from thousands of miles away. And as so often happens, what was once commonplace, then discarded, has come around again. Hopefully, the trend of eating local will last longer than tie dye, big sideburns, and hip-huggers, all of which come and go every generation or two. Let's hope "locavorism" is more of a social movement than a fleeting trend.

According to Ben Zimmer, editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press, "The word 'locavore' shows how food-lovers can enjoy what they eat while still appreciating the impact they have on the environment. It's significant in that it brings together eating and ecology in a new way."

Interestingly, last year's Word of the Year was "carbon neutral," which "involves calculating your total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reducing them where possible, and then balancing your remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset," according to the Oxford University Press. Eating locally, and thereby reducing the emissions generated by long-distance shipping, is an important component in striving for carbon neutrality -- probably more important than using fluorescent bulbs or driving a hybrid car.

How can you become a locavore? By increasing the ratio of locally produced vs. remotely produced foods in your diet. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Begin by looking at labels. Supermarkets now label the country of origin on most produce; if you have a choice, choose locally grown. Forgo asparagus and strawberries in December, instead waiting until the local spring harvests of these delicacies are at their peak. Next summer, purchase fruits and vegetables in bulk from local farmers, and preserve the harvest by canning, drying, and freezing.

It's your decision how far to take it. Locavore purists shun all foods grown at a distance; in our region that would include foods grown in the tropics, such as bananas, coffee, chocolate, and many spices.

Begin eating local foods, and soon you'll find that locally grown produce often tastes better and keeps longer. By visiting farmers' markets you'll meet the farmers in your community. You won't worry that your spinach will be subject to a nationwide recall. You'll become a more discerning shopper. (I recently bought some apple juice, only to discover too late that it was made from concentrate imported from China.)

It's almost New Year's resolution time. Why not vow to eat more locally grown food? It's not hard, and you aren't required to give up your coffee and chocolate ... yet.

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