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Choosing Vermont: The Localvore Lifestyle

According to the American Farmland Trust, New England lost 658,000 acres of farmland between 1982-1992. Although opposition to such development can seem analogous to David vs. Goliath, Vermonters are finding ways to dissuade the onslaught of expansion. Paired with the increasing concern over the state of the environment, the Localvore movement has taken root. NOFA states that the average distance that food travels from farm to plate is 1,500-2,500 miles. Due to such a divergence, our knowledge of the food decreases, while the fossil fuels used to package, preserve and transport the goods increases. It is an unfavorable equation, whose solution can stem from our own tables. Localvore refers to a person who eats only food grown within a 100 mile radius of their home. While converting to a completely Localvore lifestyle can be unrealistic, conscious choices in food selection are valuable steps in the right direction. The Worldwatch Institute estimates that buying just 10% of our most common fruits and vegetables from local farms, would save more than 300,000 gallons of fossil fuel and keep 9 million pounds of Co2 from being emitted into the atmosphere. In addition to this, eating locally has an array of prudent implications. Eating locally increases Vermonts self-sufficient, wherein by depending on Vermonts own resources, its citizens can become less susceptible to major corporations, market pressures and the federal government. It is estimated that a dollar spent locally, generates twice as much income for the communitys economy. Locally grown foods are fresher, and require fewer harmful additives, such as irradiation, preservatives, wax, and genetic modification. Food knowledge is a way of guarding ourselves against the onslaught of processes that large-scale agricultural companies slip into our grocery bags. By switching to locally grown foods we are regaining our relationship with what we eat, while in turn putting our money back into Vermonts economy. The iconic rolling hills, grain silos and produce stands of our state are no novelty, they represent hard-working farmers, who are under constant threat of going under. By buying locally, we are ensuring that farm foreclosures and urban sprawl remain at bay, while putting our dollars back into the community. Especially in the heart of winter, eating locally seems a monotonous sentence of colorless, flavorless dishes and harshly limited options. Fortunately, there are a surprising number of organizations that can ease this transition. One such local effort, the Hinesburg Buy Local Task Force, is dedicated to facilitating a back to the community foods movement. Because of its location, Hinesburg is a town on the cusp, where urban sprawl bangs at the door of agrarianism. The Buy Local Task Force held a meeting on Jan. 23, with the objective of making farming a sustainable lifestyle. Included on the possible agenda: building aggressively onto the current Hinesburg farmers market, publishing a resource booklet of Hinesburg produce, products, arts and crafts, and a possible community garden program. Hinesburg is not alone. Communities throughout the Green Mountain State are warming up to the concept of Localvore living. In 2006, the Post-Oil Solutions Organization initiated a Localvore challenge, where the participants ate only foods from their district for the month of August. The Mad River Valley Localvore group is dedicated to stretching this objective from a month-long challenge, to a sustainable lifestyle. Their vision is to implement an infrastructure to facilitate Localvores, wherein there is a supportive relationship between farmers, consumers, restaurants and stores. There are many resources for the consumer who wants to think locally. Karin Mott, the produce manager for the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op enthusiastically supports this concept. She claims that the store, if not 100% certified organic, requires that their products are wholly ecological or locally grown. Mott maintains that for six months of the year, the Co-op orders almost 100% of their produce inventory from local farms, while in the difficult growing season, the store still offers 20-40% local produce. In the lowest months, such as March, Mott suggests stocking up on root veggies, locally grown beans and dried grains, as well as Vermonts abundant dairy, meat and baked goods. Other suggestions are canning fruits and veggies during harvest season, starting indoor herb and root gardens, and greening up on the growing seasons of our most beloved foods. The Localvore lifestyle is not limited to those who rely solely upon our food shed. This goal can take years to achieve, and can seem expensive, restrictive and time-consuming. However, a good starting point is simply gaining a deeper consciences about the foods we select, and how our choices impact the community. Choosing one local item to add daily to a meal, shopping at natural foods co-ops and farmers markets, and looking for the seal of Vermont or VOF (Vermont Organic Foods) stickers on our foods and merchandise, are all uncomplicated ways to support our community. Its important to choose locally, beyond just food. Vermont is abundant in craftsman and artisans, whose work deserve the support of their communities. As Dr. Jan Albers stated in The History and Future of The Vermont Landscape, Our riches are based on the richness of our landscape, and anything that erodes that threatens to make us poorer.

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