You’re probably aware of the website How Stuff Works. It can be a useful site that explains how just about anything you can think of works.

They have an interesting piece called “How Locavores Work.” A locavore is someone who eats local foods. There is no official definition of how close food needs to be to be local, but many believe it’s about a 100-mile radius. If the food is grown within a 100 miles of where you live, it’s usually considered local.

Locavores eat locally for several reasons.

  • Eating locally is better for the environment. Local food doesn’t take up as much fuel to be shipped and usually doesn’t use as much energy to be stored as food that has come from thousands of miles away. Additionally, since many local foods come from small farms, even if the farms aren’t organic, many of them use more sustainable growing practices than large factory farms.
  • Eating locally is considered healthier. Locavores usually eat ingredients, not processed foods. Locavores eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables when they are in season (or fruit and vegetables that they have preserved), naturally raised meats, and whole grains.
  • Eating locally helps out the local economy and the small farmer. A big part of most people’s budgets goes for food. Locavores keep the majority of that money in their local region, and a lot of that goes to the small farmer.
  • Eating locally stretches culinary muscles. When you’ve only got what is in season to work with, you begin to eat things you’ve never eaten before and prepare them in ways you’ve never prepared them before.
The How Stuff Works piece explains a lot of this, but what I found most interesting about the piece was that locavores got divided into three categories.
Ultrastrict locavores avoid all ingredients that have not been grown and produced locally.
Marco Polo-rule followers incorporate dried spices into their diet -- items sailors could carry along while at sea -- but keep all other ingredients local.
Wild-card locavores are less restrictive. They bend their foodshed to include coffee, sugar, chocolate or any ingredients they feel they just can't live without [source: Tep]. The wild-card locavore diet is the movement's most accessible. Some locavores rationalize their coffee fix by purchasing only beans that have been certified fair trade.
I’d like to add a fourth category to that list. The locavore wannabe. That’s what I call myself. I want to be a locavore. When local food is in season and plentiful, I spend a huge portion of my grocery budget on it. But I still buy some food that isn’t local. When the season changes and local food is difficult to get, the largest portion of my food budget goes to non-local foods.
I’ve been aware of the importance of buying local foods for the past two years or so. As time goes on, I spend more money on local foods and dedicate time finding new sources of it in my region. Yesterday, I wrote about the website The site is pointing my to new sources of local meat and dairy. Those are things that aren’t seasonal and I can source locally year round.
While I don’t see my family ever being ultrastrict locavores, I do see us increasing our locavorism each year so that we are eating more locally year round. I’d like to eventually have a larger garden and grow lots of tomatoes and can them for use in the winter. I’d like to form a relationship with a local farmer and get my meat and dairy year round from that farmer.
For now, I do what I can, and I do a lot more than I did last year. I hope to be able to say the same thing this time next year.
How about you? Do you fall within these definitions of locavore or do you have yet another category for us? How important is eating locally to you?

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

I'm a locavore wannabe. What are you?
Not all locavores are created equal. Where do you fall on the locavore scale?