A place called The Locavore

The Locavore founder, Chris March, and waiter, Duncan Forbes
If not local, eat family-farmed; if not family-farmed, eat organic; if not organic, eat fair trade. – The Locavore menu
This is the motto of a sharp little cafe in the South Australian Adelaide Hills. The Locavore is the first “100-mile diet” eatery in the state. If the cook can’t find it within a 100-mile radius, it’s probably not on the menu.

The goal of a locavore (the Oxford Dictionary’s 2007 Word of the Year) or “local-eater,” is to reduce greenhouse gasses emitted by widely-traveled food. In recent years consumers have started to question the impact of a commercial food culture that provides spoiled consumers with out-of-season produce that doesn’t even grow in their country.

[A] study revealed that food items like oranges, sausages, tea, baked beans etc with ingredients sourced from overseas have seen more of the world than most people. In fact, the report estimates that the total distance traveled by 29 of our most common food items is 70,803 km (nearly 44,000 miles) — that's nearly two times the distance around the Earth!

Calculating road transport alone, our shopping basket has still traveled 21,073 km (around 13,065 miles), almost the whole way around Australia's coastline. The resulting greenhouse gas emissions estimate for all food transporting trucks carrying these 25 items on any given day is the equivalent of 4,247 cars driving for a whole year! And that's just for one shopping basket of 25 items. - CERES Food Mile report

Calculating food miles is a complex equation that needs to take into account the kind of fuel used to transport vehicles, the availability of resources like water, and the way food is packaged.

Four American women did the food miles math, considered alternatives and began the locavore movement three years ago. In 2005 a Canadian couple spent a year on the 100-mile diet, documenting their experiences in the book, “Plenty: One Man, One Woman and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally.” Now “locavore” rubs shoulders with “family-farmed” and “organic” in the modus operandi for growing numbers of folk.

Amid this groundswell, the Australian epicurean proprietors of The Locavore, Chris March and Nathan Crudden, are pushing the frontier of environmentally-conscious tapas dining. According to Chris, 95 percent of what’s in the kitchen has traveled less than 100 miles. The other 5 percent is the result of factors like the Australian drought that left a local organic flour mill reliant on imported grain.

Chris is realistic about the 100-mile diet’s effect on global warming; as a stand-alone system, locavorism is not the answer. “You don’t want 50 people driving 100 miles to buy their tomatoes,” he noted. In service of this sentiment, The Locavore’s proprietors’ choice of location contributes to local food mile economies of scale: in the village of Stirling, The Locavore’s home, shoppers can park centrally and walk to a number of organic outlets that source local produce.

The Locavore’s menu is based around availability and sustainability, and it grows every week, as Chad Herreem, the waiter, explained:

People come in here and tell us about more food we can source locally. They’ll tell us about local food we didn’t know about. Everything is grown within 100 miles, except coffee, which doesn’t grow in this climate at all. But our coffee is fair-trade. – Chad Herreem, waiter
The menu reveals the origins of all ingredients, which range from goat curd and wood-oven bread to lamb and a large range of wines. No bananas from Honduras or apples from China.

The Locavore’s creators knew they were in a geographical location suited to their endeavor. Their 100-mile radius basks in a Mediterranean climate that sprouts adventurous, organic, family-owned agribusinesses. World-renowned wine regions in the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale; a gulf fishery; and the fertile South Australian wheat belt lay within Chris and Nathan’s allowable geography.

Few places in the world afford this luxury – a 100-mile radius might only take in a few company-owned corn monocultures in some areas of the United States. In many places on Earth, the era of the family farm, house cow and kitchen vegetable garden are gone, and with it, any hope of sustaining a 100-mile diet. American farmers can’t even enjoy eating the genetically-modified corn they grow.

The idea is to run our business as sustainably as we can and look after the earth that looks after us … this way, we can continue to enjoy all the wonderful things it has to offer. – The Locavore menu
The Locavore’s doors have been open just shy of three months, but if it can attract patrons who are prepared to put their money where their environmental mouths are, they’ll blaze a new green trail for South Australian restaurateurs.

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  • Posted on Dec. 28, 2007. Listed in:

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