Confessions of a disobedient locavore and proud carnivore

I discovered a neat new word while researching for this commentary. It is locavore; like carnivore.

A carnivore is a meat eater. A locavore is someone who eats food grown within a certain radius such as 100 miles. Locavore has been around a couple of years. I missed it until now.

Bay area professional chef Jessica Prentice coined the word at 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.

Prentice is an author and founding member of Three Stone Hearth, a community-supported-kitchen in Berkeley, Calif.

According to Ms. Prentice, locavores encourage consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to produce their own food, with the argument that “fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Locally grown food is an environmentally friendly means of obtaining food, since supermarkets that import their food use more fossil fuels and non-renewable resources.”

I am a locavore. I eat locally grown food. After all I live in the heart of the richest agricultural valley in the world. However, I buy it from a supermarket that took delivery of it from a fossil-fuel burning truck. I will readily admit it tastes good, even from a supermarket. I will acknowledge it is just as nutritious as what is sold at the local farmers market. Just call me a disobedient locavore and a proud carnivore, too. Might as well come completely out of the refrigerator.

I discovered the new word after several people sent me a news release from the American Farmland Trust that proclaimed San Francisco could feed itself with local food from farms and ranches within 100 miles of the Golden Gate.

Whoopteedo. What’s new? It already does. Within San Francisco’s so-called 100-mile “foodshed” (another brand new word for me), 20 million pounds of food are produced annually — and have been for decades, if not centuries. Just stretch a string 100 miles out from the Golden Gate on a map and draw a circle. You hit such places as California’s North Coast, Sacramento Valley and San Joaquin Valley. The area within your circle produces agricultural products valued at $10 billion annually, according to the study. What locavore — even a Berkeley locavore — could not live on that foodshed.

The “scientific study” was a left-handed attempt to promote farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture programs (no doubt at taxpayer expense), and community gardens as better than so called “corporate agriculture.”

Got news for you; the 935,000 tons of food consumed in San Francisco each year and 5.9 million tons in the Bay Area as a whole did not come from community gardens. It came from corporate agriculture.

This buy locally grown/locavore thing promoted in this “study” is part of the ill-defined sustainability movement and the overblown organic movement.

I have nothing against sustainability — it is what commercial farmers practice every day. Organic is fine, if you can make money farming organically.

Farmers’ markets and roadside stands? I love to stop, browse and buy. One of my favorites is the fruit stand on Highway 180 near Reedley, Calif., on the road to Sequoia National Park.

What I do not like is people who try to divide America’s food production calling one segment unacceptable and one acceptable. American Farmland Trust should be ashamed to promote such division.

I had to laugh as I read the report and it said that there were three major food groups not produced in relative abundance to feed San Francisco; grain for bread and pasta, corn, and rice. Berkeley locavores ought to get out more and smell the wheat, corn, and rice fields within 100 miles of San Francisco.

“Facts” such as that only underscore the invalid nature of the inaccurate study that has little relevance to the true story about U.S. and California agriculture feeding America and the world.

The public learned nothing from the official sounding American Farmland Trust scientific study palmed off on newspapers and television talking heads.

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