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When it comes to food, the people of Marin County are pretty darn lucky . . . and we know it. We have the benefit of living in the virtual heart of California’s bounty, and to ignore that would be a crime. So the concept of being a “locavore,” or one who chooses whenever possible to eat locally grown or locally produced food, is of great importance. Now, I certainly didn’t invent this concept, and over the past few years I’ve entered many discussions with colleagues, friends, and family about what it means and how it can best be applied to cooking. And being a locavore doesn’t simply stop at addressing the proximity of your food source. Rather, it encompasses, both directly and indirectly, such concepts as sustainability, organic farming, and being “green,” among others. This is all important stuff and as I grow as a chef, a businessman, and a father, the impact of these choices takes on greater and greater significance.

Coined by a Bay Area chef and author named Jessica Prentice in 2005, the term “locavore” has picked up steam in the last few years, and in fact, was chosen by the New Oxford American Dictionary as the 2007 word of the year. This concept has become somewhat political of late as some critics have called the movement to eat local, eat organic, and eat sustainably an elitist and impractical pursuit. Look, I get it. I live in foodie ground zero. The best of the best of anything I could ever want to eat literally comes from just around the corner and, thankfully, I have the means to attain it. But not everyone is so lucky. Organic foods are more expensive . . . they just are. And if you live in the middle of Nebraska, come February, that frozen corn-sicle just isn’t going to cut it. So, I understand that this concept can seem a bit out of reach for many people. But, the truth is that as long as we all recognize the concept and factor it into our food choices, we’re on the right path.

Let’s talk about a few things that make the locavore concept important and worth your time to consider. Locally produced foods, those harvested within a 100-mile radius of one’s home, have a lesser impact on the environment because of the decreased need for transportation from source to consumer. Another plus for local foods is that they are generally of superior quality, because they get to the consumer very shortly after harvest. Your apple is what an apple should be, and your chicken really tastes like a chicken . . . not like a chicken-a-zoid that’s been pumped full of preservatives to keep it “fresh” as it makes its way across the country. Eating local foods also supports local economies, keeping the money cycling through the community. It’s very important that our restaurants not only delight our community’s collective palate but nourish and enrich the lives of our neighbors as well.
When people turn to local foods, the benefits are felt up and down the food chain, and even if you don’t live in a place where you can take full advantage of the idea, I encourage you to think about ways that you can apply the same principles to your family’s dinner table. Despite the controversies—organic vs. local, sustainable vs. cost-effective—the bottom line is that we’d all benefit from a locavore way of life. Even if it isn’t completely practical for your household all the time, there are bits and pieces of the concept that you can take away from the philosophy, wherever you live.