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What is a Locavore?

Depending on your source, the word Locavore was coined in 2005 by either one or a group of 4 ladies in San Francisco. The important point however, is that this is a term that describes people that specifically seek out locally grown or produced foodstuffs. Generally a distance limit is applied of around 100 – 200 Km. The question comes as to how is Local for us defined? The Western Cape, Gauteng or even a region in one of these provinces, or the whole of South Africa, hey even Southern Africa can be termed as local when looking at the proverbial Global Village.

I would like to try and narrow it down without being prescriptive, to a regional area, That may or may not include your entire province. My reasons are varied and without trying to force my beliefs or ideas onto others, I feel that generally this should be an area that is unique and diverse enough to source food from. Without the need to have Woolies green beans that were grown in Kenya and then flown and trucked all over the country in fuel guzzling refrigerated containers and trucks. Just thinking off the top of my head, some area’s like the Northern Cape may have problems with this as there are limitations to what agriculture can achieve in these regions. But Locavore thinking can still be applied for a fair portion of the Northern Cape diet.

The next step in becoming a locavore is eating with the seasons. That means looking at where and when in the growing cycle we are. It certainly means that you have minimal chance of buying local tomatoes in June and July, unless you are blessed to live in one of the sub-tropical regions of South Africa. Alternatively you may have a local producer growing hothouse veggies? Create the demand and the supply will follow. The only way that we can create the demand is by insisting on local produce.

One of the ways that our family gets around the dearth of certain fruits and veggies in winter is to process a lot of in-season fruits and vegetables, by drying, freezing or bottling them. This is a great way of having tomatoes in winter stews or bolognaise. You can freeze a simple tomato onion base in handy little zip-lock bags, or even whole if they are going into the pot. The nice thing about the zip-lock’s is that you can wash and re-use them, it’s much better for the environment than single use freezer bags. Other veggies are generally just as simple, and when buying in-season veggies in bulk you get them at a great price. It’s even cheaper if you grow them yourselves. And much tastier.

I’m not saying that you have to do a 100% turnaround from word go. Start with one or two items, and make a commitment to purchasing one or two necessities from a known local source. Start with Free Range Eggs, Chicken or even local Milk. Start asking for grass finished local meat from your butcher or locally grown veggies from the grocer. Try adding at least one new local product or food source every month. Pretty soon you will find that more and more options become available, as the demand increases.

Going the whole hog and only eating local food is the ultimate goal. This is what we need to aspire to. Planning for this, needs to be carefully considered, it is definitely possible with a little forethought. Each family will need to have an idea as to exactly how they want to achieve this goal and what they are prepared to commit to such a venture. The biggest thing is not to string yourself up and over commit to what you would like to achieve. You will be amazed at what you can pick up at your local farmers markets, or just by speaking to farmers in your area. Farmers always know what other farmers are doing, and you can often pick up very good bargains by going direct to the farmer. You will also get to see exactly how the farmer grows his produce. The next question you may ask is where do you meet these farmers? Simple, go to a farmers market! The farmers are there, waiting to speak to you and supply you with some of their locally grown produce. If they don’t have what you are looking for, generally they will know of someone who does.

Working out a staggered plan to become self sustainable food-wise is a good idea. It’s pointless planning a huge veggie garden that you are unable to manage or that produces too much for you to process. Rather grow into the veggie patch than grow out of it. Do it over a couple of years, say starting with veggies, fruit trees and maybe a small berry crop. For those of you that have a bit more space, chickens are a great start, turkeys and maybe even a few sheep or goats. For the dedicated getting a dual purpose cow for milk, butter, cheese and your own grass finished organic beef is the next step.

Basically, what I’m trying to do is awaken possibilities in your mind. The idea is to have a starting point and a goal. From the first step, no matter how far down the path or which route you take in becoming a locavore, the idea is to start eating and supporting local. Buying local is also not just only foodstuffs. Look at any other way that you spend your money. Where do you service your car, buy paint for your house, trees and flowers for your orchard or garden, those tiles you need to lay, plumbing fittings, how about your doctor or dentist.  This is how we will be able to build a stronger and tighter community, by keeping money in your area.

If the idea of becoming a locavore appeals to you, or you would like to find out more about the viewpoint of a locavore, I would like to refer the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.) by Barbara Kingsolver. I must admit that I read the book through twice back-to-back, it is an inspiring book that details the life of Barbara and her family for an entire year while they did the ‘locavore thing’. We have applied many of her idea’s and principles into our daily lives and I must say that the satisfaction of living and eating a simpler life is a joy and daily pleasure. Especially when you can sit a guest down and brag that whatever they are being served at the table is off your own property, or one within walking distance.

Lastly, have a chat to your local grocer, restaurants and general food suppliers. Ask them to start stocking local produce. If we create the demand by word of mouth then they will cater for us.