A bit of UV Localvore history:
Who Wants to be a Localvore?
Patricia McGovern, Edible White Mountains – Summer 2010
In June 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle ran the article: “Diet for a Sustainable Planet.” It told of four women who were urging people in the Bay area to support local farmers by eating foods grown within 100-miles of home. Tidbits, an e-newsletter from Valley Food and Farm in White River Junction, Vermont, forwarded the article.
“I could do that!” was my first thought. “Hmm—oranges, limes, lemons, olive oil, avocados, walnuts—they can do it in California— could we do it here in New Hampshire?” What a great challenge!
With a few emails and phone calls, a dozen Upper Valley folks committed to a 100-mile diet challenge that August. But the California challenge-takers called themselves Locavores; “loca” means crazy woman, right? To emphasize that it was a local challenge and that we were in fact not crazy, we called ourselves Upper Valley Localvores. We agreed that the first week of our challenge would be strict: no coffee or black tea, no spices, nothing that came from beyond the 100-mile radius. Some of us substituted hot cider or mint tea for our morning beverage. We were then a little less strict the rest of the month. Ahh . . . coffee!
August is a great time for local products and there is no shortage of food to eat. Who needs more than corn on the cob? One localvore shared her supply of sourdough starter and another supplied us with Maine sea-salt, but oh, how we missed spices! We have herbs in northern New England but few spices, and cooking without spices was unsatisfying. (I was surprised to find it was not coffee I missed most, but black pepper!)
In support of that first Localvore Challenge, the Upper Valley Food Co-op in White River Junction conducted a complete localvore labeling of the store. Their deli offered daily localvore specials, a boon to localvores on the run. Our learning curve was steep; we talked with farmers, experimented with new dishes, and swapped recipes and foods. Our first Upper Valley Localvore potluck was a great success: borscht, potato-onion frittata, salad greens with maple vinaigrette, tomatoes and goat cheese, blackberries and maple yogurt, iced mint tea; good conversation and lots of laughs.
We realized that the 100-mile diet was doable in August and into harvest time. But what of winter in northern New England? Our ancestors had managed to survive; could we? One week does not a winter make, but a January challenge would give us a taste of what would be necessary for greater year-round regional self reliance. Twenty people signed up for the Upper Valley Winter Challenge. A difference this time was the introduction of wild cards or “Marco Polo exceptions” for spices, salt, and leavening agents as well as a limited number of other choices for those who didn’t want to go without coffee or imported tea. In advance, many of us had frozen, dried or stored some of the previous season’s harvest. A few had found a winter CSA. Valley Food & Farm created a website where we could share recipes, food sources and other information. Publicity rolled out the eat local momentum which spurred groups in both the Monadnock and Seacoast regions to begin their own local food challenges.
Jessica Prentice, one of the original Locavores from the San Francisco area, visited the northeast in the fall of 2006, saying the Upper Valley Localvore Winter Challenge had given validity to their efforts in California. Her group could point to our northern New England Localvore Challenge and say that, if folks in NH and VT could do it in January, others around the country could as well.
The rest, as they say, is history. A variety of food scares have made people question the safety of our industrialized food supply. Writers such as Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver, have shone a light on the impact of the current system, revealing how unhealthy it is for the planet, farmers and farm workers, animals, and for our own health. Locavore pods have proliferated across the country. By 2007, “Locavore” had become the Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year. Now there are many locavore and eat local groups around New England who meet to share ideas and work toward greater regional food sovereignty. Other activities include potlucks, garden and root cellar tours, canning workshops, wild edibles foraging trips and more.
Might you think of trying it? Practicing during this growing season will prepare you for a winter challenge. Look around for your local food sources and visit the resource section for many links at http://www.ediblewhitemountains.com.
Pat McGovern is an advocate for local foods. She is founder and coordinator of Upper Valley Localvores. She enjoys gardening and wild edible foraging. Her current passion is the creation of the Canillas Community Garden in downtown Lebanon, NH. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.