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What Defines “Localvore”

in honor of the local food movement, I’d like to stir up some controversy: There is a real problem in this movement with the definition of the word: “LOCALVORE”

Here’s the scoop: the term ‘localvore’ was coined by chef & writer Jessica Prentice in 2005. Its usage quickly spread and in 2007, the Oxford English dictionary declared ‘localvore’ the ‘word of the year.’ The trouble is, people hold different understandings for the word. A brief survey of definitions on the internet found the following variations:

  • Merriam-Webster: “one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible.”
  • Wikipedia: “Those who prefer to eat locally grown/produced food sometimes call themselves locavores or localvores.”
  • Dictionary.com: “a person who attempt to eat only foods grown locally”
  • Thefreedictionary.com: “locavore is a word…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.”
  • Answers.com: “A locavore (or localvore) is someone who is committed to eating food that is grown or produced within their local community or region.

As exemplified above, the required level of commitment by a localvore to eating local varies based on the source; this reality is consistent in colloquial usage. Some people regard a localvore as one who only eats local, just as a vegetarian is someone who only eats vegetables. Others regard a localvore as one who prefers to eat local.

What’s our take on the situation? We believe it is better to have a lower barrier to entry, so that more people can consider themselves localvore. Requiring that an individual consume a 100% local diet to be defined as a localvore creates a very small pool of participants. For a movement that is trying to swell its ranks and persuade people to join in, the purist definition simply excludes too many people.

Apparently, we’re not alone…Jessica Prentice explained her take: “And just for the record… I am hardly a purist or a perfectionist…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.

This week, I have taken the localvore challenge: my diet is 100% local from Sunday, 09.12.10 through Saturday 09.18.10. I’m fortunate to have the resources of the Skinny Pancake to support me in this effort, but even still, I’ve found the diet to be a substantial challenge. Meanwhile, throughout the year I am strongly inclined to ‘eat local.’ Personally, I consider myself a localvore.

But not everyone agrees. In 2008, we began advertising with VPR. We described ourselves as a ‘localvore creperie’, but the kind folks at VPR were not comfortable with the usage as our products are not all 100% local. After some debate and constructive dialogue on the definition of the word ‘localvore’, we resolved to refer to ourselves as “nurturing localvore values.” As a result of this debate and others, we are careful in our marketing. We rarely refer to ourselves as a ‘localvore restaurant’ anymore…though we believe we are, we simply don’t want to mislead people who have a more stringent definition of the word.

What is your opinion on this subject? Tell us what you think below or tell us on our Facebook page for a discussion on this subject!