Seasonality, Imported Foods and Variety
Some locavores follow the 100-mile diet year round, but unless they live in southern California, Texas, or Florida, strict locavores would have to give up lemons, oranges, and other good foods. Most fish would be off the menu. Goodbye bananas, pineapples and mangoes. Farewell chocolate, coffee and tea. Like their great-grandparents, they would have far fewer food choices during the winter. Some now advocate canning and freezing locally grown foods at home--which is fine, if you have the time and know-how.
We don't recommend such a return to the "good old days." It's true that our great-grandparents didn't eat Twinkies and McDonald's fries (though fried potatoes were indeed a staple), but the diet of a hundred years ago was usually quite limited and not necessarily nutritious. Many foods now regarded as unhealthy were common, and many were fried in chicken or pork fat. Food poisoning was common. It was hardly an eater's paradise.
Words to the Wise
It is a great idea to buy local produce when you can, and for many people it's already second nature. Shopping at a farmer's market is enjoyable, and the produce is likely to be fresh and tasty. Many supermarkets also sell local produce in season (it's usually labeled as such).
It's fine to support your local farmer. But interstate sales of food are a major part of our economy, just as producing food for export is important in many developing countries. You need not give up berries in January (though in summer local berries will taste better) or go without tropical fruits year round.
One sure way to cut carbon emissions while improving your health: Eat less red meat. Beef is the most environmentally expensive food of all. According to a recent article in Scientific American, "producing the annual beef diet of the average American emits as much greenhouse gas as a car driving more than 1,800 miles."
Moreover, last month we reported on a study showing that people who eat the most red meat are one-third more likely to die prematurely than those eating little or no red meat, and many other studies have had similar findings.
For information about Community Supported Agriculture, consult the USDA National Agricultural Library. You can find out how to become a "shareholder" in a farm in your area, so that you can buy directly from a farmer. You'll also find links to information about sustainable practices in farming and advice on eating seasonally and regionally.