Debra Prinzing

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Word of the year: “Locavore”

December 13th, 2007

Editors at the New Oxford American Dictionary recently announced that “locavore” is their word of the year.

Locavore: someone who eats locally grown food.

Watching this wonderful word move into the mainstream is both gratifying and a little worrisome. Will locavore become a politicized label, like recent research reports concluding that owners of hybrid cars are active, educated and Democrat? Will locavore suffer from overuse, watered down for marketers’ convenience, as “organic” and “all-natural” have been? I hope neither. I hope, like the Slow Food movement, that this word will remain a cherished symbol of grassroots passion about the character (and food) of a specific place on earth. Namely: your own backyard. And for this reason, I maintain that gardeners at their very hearts, are also locavores.

Animal-Vegetable-MiracleAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle, a wonderful new book by Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver, is the authentic locavore manifesto. In it, megastar novelist Kingsolver and her family document “a year of food life,” in which they attempted to grow and produce as much of their own food as possible. And when the food doesn’t come from their own small farm in the southern Appalacians, it is supplied by local farmers who use sustainable practices. I received this book as a gift from my dear friend Britt Olson. Reading it this autumn has given me renewed hope in the power of one’s own small patch of soil — and what can be grown there.

As I’m trying to renovate a sterile, suburban backyard so that it can be planted next March, I’m thinking about all the delicious, nourishing vegetables and herbs that it will produce (not to mention seasonal flowers that I can enjoy and use in arrangements). I’ll never reach the status of a 100-percent locavore, but if I can at least grow some of my own food supply, it will be a start. It is a gardener’s obligation, I think, to grow edible as well as ornamental crops.


Cauliflowers from Underwood Family Farms in Somis, CA

The farmer’s market is open this afternoon, and I’m off to buy organic eggs (although one has to arrive at 2 p.m. on the spot in order to get the lovely blue-green Araucana eggs), fingerling potatoes, colorful cauliflowers, and autumn fruit. Perhaps I’m a locavore-wannabe, but it’s sure better than the alternative.

5 Responses to “Word of the year: “Locavore””

  1. MA Says:

    Loved this entry! Am loving Kingsolver’s book, as well. And I am glad the hybrid cars took the heat off me and my 25 year old Volvo wagon. Whew! I hate being pigeonholed. Hate it.

  2. Lydia Plunk Says:

    You are a lucky gal- the Farmer’s Market up by you is one of the best!

    Locavore is going to last because as people rediscover how much better food tastes when it doesn’t come dehydrated from the long trip to market, not to mention without major transportation costs tagged on, people are going to demand it.

    It doesn’t get more local than the home garden. One of my favorite discoveries of last year was the Sunshine Blue Southern Highbush Blueberry by Monrovia. Mine really pumped out these delicious little fruit that are so much better than anything from the stores. Most of what I grew got popped in the mouth – delicious straight from the garden.

  3. David Says:

    Locavore wannabe?

    My take on it goes like this. Even a 5% shift, just 5% would make a vast difference. Growing even 5% of your food on ground that would otherwise just need to be mowed, watered, etc. or otherwise lie dormant. Toss a pebble into a lake and the waves go out. What they look like when they meet the far shores may not be readily apparent, but there is definitely energy created and put into motion, even with a single pebble. Enough pebbles, enough percentage points, hmmmm, we might not feel so compelled to send our youth and their education dollars off to foreign lands to fight and kill others, essentially for oil. Add to that the pure joy of wandering through the garden, eating what grows there . . . the life skills/lessons available for the neighborhood kids, the mental health benefits, the savings on health-club memberships, the gas you don’t have to spend driving to your ‘workout’, the longer life of your car, tires. See how those little waves head out in all directions?

    Wannabe locavore or transitional locavore. We are all just really beginning to see the connectedness that has been there all along and find ways to incorporate it into our living. We’ll get there. And eating 5% local is a healthy, fun, interesting start. If that works, make it ten…

    My $.02

  4. Nate Says:

    I am embarking on a similar journey. In the next few weeks will be tearing up a 14 x 20 foot patio from the rear of my Miracle Mile home with the goal of turning it into a vegetable garden. Wish me luck. The soil will likely be complete dead after sitting under 4 inches of cement for decades.

  5. Dee Says:

    I used to grow almost everything we ate. Then, I had three kids. They grew and began to play baseball, volleyball, softball, trombone. They’re also scouts: boys and girls. Not only am I not growing as much food (more flowers, maybe I help the honeybees,) I am also probably ruining the environment single handedly with my driving. I wish the powers that be would create a realistic hybrid that would hold all my children and their gear. I know about the Toyota highlander. My friend was on a waiting list for a year. After my flock ventures out into the world, I am going to buy a mini cooper, or something small. LOL. Where will I put all the trees and shrubs?

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