What Is a Locavore?

You know one if you are part of the local food movement

Agricultural workers cultivate romaine lettuce on a farm in Holtville, California
John Moore/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Locavore is a word often used to describe people who represent or take part in the growing local food movement. But what is a locavore exactly, and what distinguishes locavores from other consumers who appreciate the benefits of locally grown food?

What Is a Locavore?

A locavore is someone who is committed to eating food that is grown or produced within their local community or region.

What Do Locavores Eat?

Most locavores define local as anything within 100 miles of their homes. Locavores who live in more remote areas sometimes expand their definition of locally grown food to include meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, honey and other food products that come from farms and other food producers within a 250-mile radius.

Locavores may purchase local food from farmer's markets, through a CSA (community supported agriculture) that provides local produce to its members, or at one of the growing number of national and regional supermarket chains that now stock a variety of locally grown foods.

Why Do Locavores Choose Locally Grown Food?

In general, locavores believe that locally grown food is fresher, better-tasting, more nutritious, and provides a healthier diet than typical supermarket food that is often grown on factory farms, doused with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and transported hundreds or thousands of miles.

Locavores argue that eating locally grown food supports farmers and small businesses in their communities. Because farms that produce food for local markets are more likely to use organic and natural methods, locavores also believe that eating locally grown food helps the planet by reducing air, soil and water pollution. In addition, eating food that is grown or raised locally, rather than being shipped long distances, conserves fuel and cuts greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming and other climate changes.

Do Locavores Eat Any Food That Isn't Local?

Locavores sometimes make exceptions in their diets for certain food products that are simply not available from local producers, items such as coffee, tea, chocolate, salt, and spices. Frequently, locavores who make such exceptions try to purchase those products from local businesses that are only one or two steps removed from the source, such as local coffee roasters, local chocolatiers, and so on.

Jessica Prentice, the chef and writer who coined the term back in 2005, says being a locavore should be a pleasure, not a burden.

"And just for the record… I am hardly a purist or a perfectionist," Prentice wrote in a blog post for the Oxford University Press in 2007. "Personally, I don’t use the word as a whip to make myself or anyone else feel guilty for drinking coffee, cooking with coconut milk, or indulging in a piece of chocolate. There are things it makes sense to import because we can’t grow them here, and they’re either good for us or really delicious or both. But it doesn’t make sense to watch local apple orchards go out of business while our stores are filled with imported mealy apples. And if you spend a few weeks each year without the pleasures of imported delicacies, you really do learn a whole lot about your foodshed, about your place, about what you’re swallowing on a daily basis."

"Once upon a time, all human beings were locavores, and everything we ate was a gift of the Earth," Prentice added. "To have something to devour is a blessing -- let’s not forget it."