Location: Berkeley Farmer's Market, Berkeley, CA Featuring: Santa Bariani (Bariani Olive Oil), Ted Fuller (Highland Hills Ranch), John Lagier (Lagier Ranch), Eduardo Morell (Morrell Bakery), Annabelle Lenderink (La Tercera), and Jessica Prentice (The Locavore)
Location: Berkeley Farmer's Market, Berkeley, CA
Featuring: Santa Bariani (Bariani Olive Oil), Ted Fuller (Highland Hills Ranch), John Lagier (Lagier Ranch), Eduardo Morell (Morrell Bakery), Annabelle Lenderink (La Tercera), and Jessica Prentice (The Locavore)
A locavore is someone who gives precedence to food that's locally grown. In many cases, this leaders the locavore to know who grows his or her food.
Jessica Prentice, a Bay Area chef, food writer, and community kitchen incubator, created the term in 2005. According to her, the term means a person who bases their diet on foods that are grown and produced in the geographic region where they live, are in touch with the seasonality of their food systems, and seek to cultivate relationships with local producers and processors. Locavores also have some kind of hands-on interaction with their food (cooking, gardens, baking, fermenting) either domestically or professionally.
Prentice coined locavore by first looking at the Latin root for "place" -- locus, which is how we get words like "local" and "locomotion" -- then coupling it with the vorare, the Latin verb for "to eat" or "to swallow." It's also the root for "devour" and "carnivore." Putting the two roots together gave her locavore.
The Healing Potential of Soil Fertility
Soil fertility is one of those things that I think about a lot. Although I had a vague sense of the magnitude of the problem with our soil when I first started learning about organic agriculture, the issue was brought home to me most clearly when I read the following passage. It is from the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price, which was first published in 1939:
It is apparent that the present and past one or two generations have taken more than their share of the minerals that were available in the soil in most of the United States, and have done so without returning them. Thus, they have handicapped, to a serious extent, the succeeding generations, since it is so difficult to replenish the minerals, and since it is practically impossible to accumulate another layer of topsoil, in less than a period of many hundreds of years. This constitutes, accordingly, one of the serious dilemmas, since human beings are dependent upon soil for their animal and plant foods. . . . The vitamin and protein content of plants has been shown to be directly related to availability of soil minerals and other nutriments. A program that does not include maintaining this balance between population and soil productivity must inevitably lead to disastrous degeneration. Over-population means strife and wars. The history of the rise and fall of many of the past civilizations has recorded a progressive rise, while civilizations were using the accumulated nutrition in the topsoil, forest, shrubbery and grass, followed by a progressive decline, while the same civilizations were reaping the results of the destruction of these essential ultimate sources of life.
What struck me in this passage was the importance of taking the long view: when you mine the soil, you are stealing from future generations; when you build the soil, you are gifting them with something immeasurably valuable. But it also struck me that was that this was written before WWII and the subsequent “Green Revolution,” which saw broad-scale use of nitrogen-based fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. I had always associated an exploitative attitude towards the soil with the postwar era, as referenced by the following passage from the Permaculture Research Institute:
…[W]e can say that in the chemical-based paradigm of modern agriculture that emerged after WWII, the earth is seen as a passive resource to be exploited by scientific means for the highest possible yield, and therefore profit. Any intrinsic ‘deficiencies’ in the soil are corrected and pests are controlled by chemical means. In this view, the depletion of the soil and the erosion of the land, when they are acknowledged at all, are seen as necessary evils.
Whatever the history, I find hope in the fact that many farmers, gardeners, permaculturists, and green visionaries today are developing and rediscovering approaches that seem to be able to build soil faster than the “many hundreds of years” that Price refers to. But there isn’t any evidence that it will prevent the catastrophic effects Price predicts. We have to live by faith, I think, because so little is known about what the future may hold for human life on this precious planet. And so we simply have to try our best: listen to the Earth, feel her, observe her, let her be our great teacher. Maybe, by doing so, we can help heal her. And as she heals, so too will we.
Story Bank: Connecting with the Seasons with Jessica Prentice
Jessica Prentice is a professional chef, author, local foods activist, and social entrepreneur. Her first book, "Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection," was released by Chelsea Green Publishing in 2006. Prentice is a co-creator of the Local Foods Wheel, and coined the word “locavore.” Jessica is also a co-founder of Three Stone Hearth, a Community Supported Kitchen in Berkeley that uses local, sustainable ingredients to prepare nutrient-dense, traditional foods on a community scale. She lives, works, and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Douglas Gayeton: How important is the idea of being and eating local?
Jessica Prentice: The idea of being local is not so much about geography, or even food miles or use of resources. The beauty of a local food system is that it brings you back into a relationship with the source of your food, the land, the animals, the plants, the farmers and each other. To me, the most important thing about eating locally is that web of relationships. It also has all these other benefits: it cuts down on use of fossil fuels, helps you to eat more seasonally, and it’s inherently more nutritious if you cut out imported foods or foods that travelled long distances. If you know where your foods come from, you’re likely not eating processed foods and eating more whole foods, and it’s going to be better for you and better for the planet. We tend to think of seasonality in terms of produce: tomatoes in summer, asparagus in the spring, root vegetables in winter. Seasonality can be reflected in animal products as well. Eggs are a great example. If we let go of the industrial model of eggs, we have lots of eggs in spring and summer, and fewer eggs in winter, or we have a different price. Eating seasonally works on a lot of levels. You’re going to be eating more locally, but also you’re reconnecting with the earth and its rhythms. Because we can get anything from anywhere, anytime of the year at the grocery store, you don’t have any sense of where anything has come from. We become more disconnected through purchasing that way.
Douglas Gayeton: How can people be more connected to what they eat? What’s the secret?
Jessica Prentice:There are two primary paths. One is to garden and grow some of your own food. Just eating some things that you’re growing yourself makes a huge difference and it will inherently reconnect you. Or keeping chickens, a beehive, or any of those things that are part of the urban farming renaissance. The other thing is to shop at farmers markets because then you’re getting food directly from the people that grew your food and you’re putting your money right into the hands of a farmer. You are able to ask questions about how that food was raised, have a conversation, look that person in the eyes and talk about the food. It slows you down.