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Consider planting a vegetable garden

By Jessica Damiano
Newsday
Unless you’ve been living under a pile of mulch this past year, you’ve surely heard the term locavore tossed about like a chopped salad. I’ve seen it in print articles and online, on a sign outside a local restaurant and in the produce department of one of my neighborhood groceries.
When I first heard the term, it was spelled localvore, which was a bit more intuitive. Next, it was popping up as “locovore,” which I thought was more fun because it conjured up images of crazy people speaking Spanish. Alas, according to Google search results, locavore appears to be winning out, with 173,000 search results, versus 27,000 for localvore and a mere 2,200 for locovore. Last year, the New Oxford American Dictionary chose locavore as its 2007 Word of the Year.
Whether you say tomato or tomahto isn’t really relative. It’s where that round red fruit was grown that matters most.
So what, exactly, is a locavore? According to Wikipedia, the term locavore “was coined by Jessica Prentice from the San Francisco Bay Area on the occasion of World Environment Day 2005 to describe and promote the practice of eating a diet consisting of food harvested from within an area most commonly bound by a 100-mile radius.”
A few years ago, I caught wind of Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon, a couple of Canadians who, after learning that much of the food they ate had traveled an average of 1,500 miles before landing on their plates, decided to conduct an experiment whereby they would only eat food that originated within 100 miles of their Vancouver apartment. Soon, they were documenting their endeavor ó more challenging than you’d imagine ó in a blog on an online magazine site called The Tyee.
They even turned their story into a book, published by Random House, titled “Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally.”
It’s not as easy as you might think. Do you like imported cheeses? Out. Tropical Fruits? Ixnay. And you can pretty much forget chocolate altogether. In fact, Smith and MacKinnon detailed their frustrations as well as their joys. Among them, they said, they ate a lot of potatoes.
The main drive behind the movement is ecological in nature. Eating local foods uses less “embodied energy,” defined (courtesy of my husband, John, a green buildings proponent) as the sum of all energy used to grow, extract and manufacture produce, including the amount of energy needed to transport it.
So if you’re eating tomatoes grown at a local farm, or even better, in your own back yard, think of the gasoline, truck emissions and packaging that you’re saving. Less pollution in the air and in landfills.
Plus the food is fresher and probably tastier, as produce that needs to survive a long journey often is picked before it’s fully ripe, never quite tasting the way it would if allowed to remain on the plant until ripe. Think about mealy winter tomatoes from the grocery store. Blech.
Interested in giving it a try? One very easy way to start is to plant a vegetable garden this spring. If you’ve never grown edibles, don’t be intimidated, it’s very easy.
Another good option is shop at local farm stands (just make sure they don’t ship their produce in from elsewhere. Believe it or not, some do). Or you could join a food co-op or buy a share in a Community Supported Agriculture farm.

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