The Rise of the Eat Locally Locavore

locavore, eat locally, locally grown food movementAmericans are increasingly seeking out the flavors of fresh foods grown on local farms, rather than those trucked to supermarkets from faraway lands.

As a result, hundreds of farmers‘ markets are springing up all around the United States. The number of such markets reached 4,692 in 2006, up 50 percent from five years earlier.

The rise of farmers‘ markets results from a dramatic shift in American tastes. It‘s a movement that is gradually reshaping the business of growing and supplying food to Americans.

The local food movement has already accomplished something that almost no one would have thought possible a few short years ago: a revival of small farms. After declining for more than a century, the number of small farms has increased 20 percent in the past six years.

The impact of "locavores" (as local-food proponents are sometimes known) is even being felt in the government. The latest version of the Farm Bill sets aside $2.3 billion for specialty crops, such as the eggplants, strawberries, or salad greens that are grown by small, mostly organic farmers. That‘s an increase from just $100 million in the previous Farm Bill.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Although I frequently discuss the stronghold big business has on the U.S. food system, I don’t want that to overpower the more important message:

Change is inevitable.

Somewhat reminds me of one of my all-time favorite quotes from Arthur Shoepenhaur.

He said all truths go through three phases:
  1. First it is ridiculed
  2. Then it is violently opposed
  3. Then widely accepted as self evident
This is particularly true as increasing numbers of people are saying enough is enough. We are tired of low-quality, tainted foods, and now we are demanding something better: fresh foods grown on small farms, from people we can meet and talk to.

And the food system is responding; as one Japanese proverb says, the bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.

Some great examples that the tide is beginning to turn?
  • In the past six years, the number of small farms has increased by 20 percent, to 1.2 million
  • Farmers’ markets grew 50 percent from 2001 to 2006, to nearly 4,700 farms (and $1 billion in sales).
  • According to the most recent Farm Bill, small farmers can get up to 75 percent of their organic certification costs reimbursed, and some can also get crop insurance. Money has also been set aside to research organic foods and promote farmers’ markets.
  • 1,200 U.S. school districts have committed to buying fresh vegetables and fruits from local farms.
  • The number of farms with community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs in the U.S. grew from just 400 in 2000 to over 1,800 in 2008.
As I write this, I simply cannot keep from smiling.

This is a clear sign of what happens when people start demanding changes for the better: when enough attitudes shift, the fabric of society follows.

However -- We’re Not Out of the Woods Just Yet

There’s no denying that good things are happening, but there is still a long way to go. Case in point, although the Farm Bill set aside $2.3 billion to subsidize small farmers’ specialty crops, it gave $290 billion to big business in the form of corn, soybean and cotton subsidies.

Meanwhile, major supermarkets still dominate the food market. Even Whole Foods only buys from four local farmers at each of its stores. And in summer months, only 30 percent of the produce in your average Whole Foods store is grown locally.

Meanwhile, New York Times author Michael Pollan wrote an excellent article about Why Our Food Supply is Crumbling, and I strongly encourage you to read it. Despite the surge in small farms, well over 50 percent of the food you eat is still produced by factory-farming methods that threaten both your health and the environment.

The solution?

Support local and sustainable food growers as much as possible.

Where to Find Healthy, Locally Grown Food

Now that summer is almost here in the United States, fresh produce is available in abundance. Not only is the food so much tastier and healthier, but there is something about shopping for fresh foods in an open-air, social environment that just feels right. An artificially lit, dreary supermarket just can’t compete.

And there really is something to this new “locavore” movement. According to research by the Economic and Social Research Council, people who participated in alternative food networks such as the ones I’ve listed below, typically:
  • Increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Improved their cooking skills
  • Improved their knowledge about food
  • Changed their behaviors in relation to other goods, such as household products and clothes
If you want to experience some of these benefits first-hand, here are some great resources to obtain wholesome food that supports not only you but also the environment:

1. Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

2. Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.

3. Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.

4. Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.

5. Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.

6. FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSA's, and markets near you.

+ Sources and References