People choosing to live 'la vida locavore' - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

People choosing to live 'la vida locavore'

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Getting food from local sources helps support area farmers and the economy. (Source: madame.furie/flickr) Getting food from local sources helps support area farmers and the economy. (Source: madame.furie/flickr)
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(RNN) – Locavores try to eat locally sourced food whenever possible for a number of reasons.

Not only do they believe locally produced food tastes better, but getting food from local sources also helps support their neighbors and the area's economy.

The Minneapolis-based nonprofit Crossroads Resource Center have studied the effects of a food system on local economies in a quest to help communities become more self-sufficient.

Its 2012 study of the Montgomery, AL, metro area showed they were among many localities that could not meet their own demand.

Based on data from 1989 to 2010, the group found farmers in central Alabama earn $7 million per year producing food and spend $40 million buying input sources outside the region. Those purchases included items needed for farming, like seed, animal feed, credit and fertilizer.

Thus, farming created a cumulative average loss of $33 million a year - all while the region's consumers spent $800 million on shipped-in food. Also, the region's farmers earned about $1 million more from federal farm subsidies than from their commodities.

"If Central Alabama residents purchased $5 of food directly from farmers in the region, this would generate $95 million of new farm income for the region," the study suggested.

The practice of locally sourcing food, whether from local farmers or grown at home, is also more environmentally conscious than buying food from other areas of the country and having it shipped. For instance, pollution is increased by shipping commodities from other parts of the country or other parts of the world.

Getting local fruits and vegetables also ensures a fresher product than what can be had at the supermarket because people can buy ahead of time directly from the grower.

In a community-supported agriculture, or CSA, the grower offers shares in the form of a weekly or biweekly box of vegetables and other farm produce throughout the growing season. This benefits the farmer, who receive their payments early in the season, and the public, which gets exposed to new, ultra-fresh food directly from the farm.

Local food tends to also be safer from contamination, both accidental and intentional.

In addition, the FBI has expressed concern that the industrialized food supply may be a ripe target for terrorism.

"If terrorists strive for human deaths, the food production and distribution chain offers a low-tech but effective mechanism for disseminating toxins and bacteria, such as botulism, E. coli, and salmonella," a 2012 report stated. "Developments in the farm-to-table continuum greatly have increased the number of entry points for these agents."

Plus, unintentional contamination has the power to affect people across a large area where products are shipped. Last year, bagged salads spawned a cyclospora outbreak that sickened more than 600 people in 25 states.

The centralization of the food supply has affected biodiversity as well, according to Slow Food USA.

More than 90 percent of crop varieties and many domestic animals breeds have been lost, the group stated. More than 80 percent of corn and 90 percent of soybean seeds are now patented by just one company.

Even in a fast-paced school environment, there are ways to tap into local food.

According to USDA's Farm to School Census, in school year 2011-2012, schools participating in farm to school activities provided more than $350 million in local food. More than half of participating schools planned to purchase even more local foods in future school years.

Local Harvest, a group of local food activists, maintains a list of CSAs and family farms.

Slow Food USA encouraged people to slow down with its Official Slow Food Manifesto, which reads in part: "We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods. … A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life."

The woman who coined the term locavore in her book Full Moon Feast, Jessica Prentice, explained to the Language Log that she was not worried about the connotation of loca with the Spanish word for crazy.

"If journalists wanted to question me on that association, it would be an opportunity to explain that what is really crazy is the amount of unnecessary importation and exportation of food that currently happens in our globalized food system," Prentice said.

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