Localvore Challenge encourages consumers to shop locally

Sunday, September 16, 2007 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 6:40 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — Cutting into one of Kenny Duzan’s heirloom tomatoes releases such a sweet aroma that it’s nearly impossible to resist finishing it in one bite.

The tomatoes are blessed with good genetics, according to Duzan, a small-farm owner who lives eight miles outside city limits.

Columbia Localvore Challenge

What: Columbia Localvore Challenge, a one-week effort to eat only locally produced food When: Sept. 22-29 Cost: Free; participants are only asked to help coordinators track participation by filling out a form online. Additional information may be sent to registrants through e-mail. Register online at Guidelines: As much as possible, any local meal should be made with locally grown ingredients or food items made by local businesses. Imported spices and cooking oil are allowed since they are not produced locally. Meals can also be purchased at restaurants that use local ingredients. While the challenge focuses on meals, participants are encouraged to include locally produced drinks, snacks and other food items in their daily diets.

Proud “localvores,” a nickname for those who aspire to eat foods produced and manufactured within the region where they live, would say a short shelf life is the reason for the tomato’s firm flesh and juicy interior.

“Locally grown seasonal foods taste great,” said Ava Fajen, co-leader of Slow Food Katy Trail.

“The flavor and texture of local tomatoes, picked the day before they’re sold at the farmers’ market, are far superior to that of conventionally grown tomatoes that are picked before they’re ripe. A tomato in the store may be weeks old before you eat it,” Fajen said.

Slow Food Katy Trail has teamed with Sustainable Farms and Communities and the Columbia Farmers’ Market to sponsor the first Columbia Localvore Challenge the week of Sept. 22-29.

The challenge asks participants to buy, prepare and eat meals made with only those ingredients or food items from Missouri for one week. Eligible ingredients include Troutdale Farm trout filets, Bonne Femme Farm honey and Backers potato chips. Oils and spices required for cooking are exempt from the guidelines.

“The main goal is to raise awareness and appreciation of how diverse our local food supplies are here,” Sustainable Farms and Communities board member Eric Butler said.

“There’s a lot more diversity in terms of what you can get from small family farmers and businesses than people might think.

“In this age of large-scale corporate agriculture, small family farms in this state and region really do produce a lot of good food,” Butler said.

Similar challenges have taken place in Portland, Ore., San Francisco and Chicago. Eating local food provides better tasting meals, supports the local economy and encourages people to establish relationships with their food providers, according to Fajen.

“When the customer and farmer have this personal interaction, the person eating the food really understands and recognizes that their health and survival depend on the farmer and sustained health of the land and earth,” she said. “Otherwise, you can get pretty separated from where your food actually comes from.”

Participants are being asked to register online at Registering allows organizers to disperse new information and tips for completing the challenge, as well as better estimate the number of participants.

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