Playing With My Food ~
A journal about food, thought, travel, and life; by Chef & Raconteur Chaz French.

Thoughts about food and Locavorism…


Main Entry: locavore Part of Speech:   n Definition:   a person who attempt to eat only foods grown locally Example:   Locavores grow their own food or buy foodstuffs grown within their region. Etymology:   2006 Usage:   cooking

(Definition from

This post started with the intention of being a comment on my friend Jonas’ blog, specifically on this post. (Sorry Jonas, it started getting too good to be a comment).

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately, to the term Locavore, and to it’s ideal of eating locally, and since I’ve gotten a great job at a school where they want ‘local, seasonal, organic’ with a bit of a tight budget, it’s been on my mind a lot!

When I finished culinary school I had to do a required internship, being a bit of a masochist and over-achiever, I opted instead to do a longer apprenticeship at Three Stone Hearth (aka TSH). Which has a focus not only on local, organic, sustainable foods, but also on traditional diets and nutrition.  One of the owners of TSH is Jessica Prentice, the person credited with coining the term ‘locavore’.

Here’s what I’ve come to believe about Locavorism:

It’s not realistic, unless you want to give up almost all spices and all manner of other fruits, vegetables and meat.  Even where I live in Northern California, which is less than a day’s drive from nearly everything you can want, it’s the ‘nearly’ part that kills it.  And even at TSH they can’t get all of their foods locally. Ginger for example, the closest they can get it from is Hawai’i and that’s only part of the year, the rest comes from South America.  Palm sugar, Coconut oil and pretty much every spice comes from outside the country.

So as I said, this got me to thinking and I’m still working this out, but I think a better ideal is one that most people can meet without breaking their budget or just doing without.  I think we should strive to do better to our home, the Earth, than we have.  Monoculture crops, petroleum based fertilizers, pesticides (and the GMO seeds resistant to those pesticides), and most of that lot, needs to go. It’s bad for us, it’s bad for the planet.

So where is the common and sensible ground?

Here’s what I’m proposing, and am open to ideas to make better.

60-70% Local

Define Local: Some people say 100 miles, but that’s not always practical.  The NYC Farmer’s Markets has a variable distance based on direction (N,E,S,W from NYC) the max is 250 miles, which is a roughly 4 hour drive and when you factor in the return trip this is roughly ‘a day’s drive’.  I think that’s a fair definition.

10-15% Regional

Define Regional: In the U.S. that’s fairly simple as we define ourselves, East Coast (aka Eastern Seaboard), Midwest, South, South West, North West, etc.  Basically, I’m thinking “Regional” should be 800-1,200 miles.

10-15% National: Or for smaller countries (like in Europe) Continental This one is fairly self-explanatory as far as how far your food should come from.

10-15% International/Global: Face it, the spice trade has become a part of us, there’s no way you can ever convince me, or many others, to give up coffee, chocolate, tea, vanilla, ginger, cardamom, etc..  But we can do better than we have been, we can reduce our footprint and work towards rebuilding our natural resources, like topsoil and clean water.

Why else not entirely local? Because it allows us to grow our foods, and raise our animals in areas best suited for them.  There are parts of the U.S. where grasslands are abundant naturally, and we should take advantage of those resources, while also taking care of them. This would also allow us to bring the cost of growing organic crops, and raising pastured animals down to where everyone can afford them and not be just something that rich urbanites, trust-fund hipsters and wage-slave foodies (who forgo much else) can afford.  (Go ahead look around a farmer’s market in any city and tell me that’s not a fair description of the people shopping there).

Why change at all? Because it’s better food, it hasn’t been altered to survive the application of lethal chemicals, because it tastes better, because it’s the way we’ve eaten for millennia and it’s how we’ve evolved to eat.  Food changed post WWII, we’ve moved to chemical fertilizers (thanks Military Industrial Complex), we’ve gotten away from small family farms, and from knowing the people who grow our food and turned it over to multi-national conglomerates who care nothing about food, they are in it for profit.  And because we have children who don’t know how food is grown at all, and that’s a shame on us all.

So, what do you think?  I’d like to hear.