I’m currently in the country of Ecuador, staying with an indigenous family in the Andes. While speaking with the father, he told me that they grow almost all their own food, and often trade with local farmers for the remainder. This contrasts sharply with the average American diet, where a typical prepared meal contains foods from five countries besides the United States.

This certainly impacts the amount of fossil fuels used to transport our food, its freshness, and where our food dollars end up. Although the growing season in Ecuador is probably longer than yours, there are many steps to take to increase the quantity of locally-grown food in your diet. 

Get Familiar With Locally-Available Foods

Until recently, many of us had never heard of kale of kohlrabi. Get familiar with your locally available foods to make best use of them. In some cases, this will involve getting adventurous and seeking out new recipes. If there are restaurants in your area that specialize in locally-grown foods, sample new foods or new ways of preparing foods.

Here are 5 tips for eating like a locavore.

1. Know the Crop Seasons

When is the best locally-grown lettuce, basil, or cucumbers available in your area? Try to make good use of your favorite fruits and veggies during their seasons. If you do not know this information, consult a guide for a schedule of regionally-available foods, and plan meal preparation and food shopping around this.

2. Shop at Farmers Markets

Local farm market. Image courtesy of atache

One of my leading strategies for eating like a locavore is shopping at farmers markets. A large farmer’s market will offer many locally available foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and animal proteins. Try to substitute as many of the items you typically buy at the grocery store with these foods. Some farmers can reuse food containers, which helps makes our food more sustainable. Shopping at farmers markets also helps promote locally-available foods in your area by supporting local farmers.

3. Plant a Garden

My family grows a lot of foods in our garden. Whenever we harvest more than we can consume we dehydrate, can, or freeze the surplus. If time or space are limited, try to focus on a couple of high-yield crops. We had a bumper crop of tomatoes this year, and were able to freeze them for the off season.

4. Join a CSA Farm

Community Supported Agriculture farms allow people to join a farm for a growing season, sharing both the expenses and the harvest. Some CSA farms also partner with other local farms to offer additional products, such as eggs or cheese.

Worker-share CSA farms also offer opportunities for members to help plant, maintain, and harvest crops. My family is a member of Little River Farm, a worker-share farm in Belfast, Maine. The farm has periodic work days, and we harvest crops each Sunday during the growing season.

5. Preserve Local Foods for the Off Season

Many foods are only in season for a relatively short period of time. Try fermenting, freezing, dehydrating, or canning your favorites to enjoy in the off season. Some of the best vegetables to ferment are beets, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, and onions. Dehydrate or freeze your favorite veggies for a winter soup, and freeze fruits for off-season smoothies.

Feature image courtesy of Christopher Paquette

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.