August 26, 2013

Challenge on to eat local foods

By LAURIE DAVIS, Cornell Cooperative Extension

---- — Think you’ve got what it takes to be a true locavore?

That’s the question posed by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York’s (NOFA-NY) annual Locavore Challenge. The Farming Association has sponsored this event for the past four years, and it’s gaining ground. Whether you are a seasoned locavore or you’re starting your foray into local eating, the Locavore Challenge has something for you.

What is a locavore, exactly? At its simplest, the word defines someone who eats locally grown food whenever possible. How you define “locally grown” is largely a personal decision. When considering where you’d like to purchase your food, you must ask yourself what distance you are willing to encompass and still feel comfortable calling it “local.” Is it 50 miles, 100 miles ...? If you draw a 100-mile radius around your home in, say, Chazy, you are going to include a sizable chunk of New York, but also decent pieces of Vermont and Canada, possibly violating your own rules to stay within New York or even the United States.

There is no concrete definition of local. The bottom line is to go with what works for you and your family. Most locavores procure their food as close to home as possible, expanding in an increasing radius until most of their needs are met. The important thing to remember is that food dollars spent on local farmers will support the local economy, however you define it.

If you visit the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York’s website,, you’ll find the Locavore Challenge link prominently displayed on the home page. Click through, and you’ll get all the details. There are different levels of challenges, a resource guide, events, dinners and even an essay contest. Since this challenge is sponsored by the NOFA, the focus is naturally on organic food. While organic is a farming method I wholly support, I encourage everyone who is taking this challenge to support the local farms that are important to them.

It could be fun to host a “harvest dinner.” The Northeast Organic Farming Association lets challenge participants choose the date (in the last week of September) and plan the meal. The goal is to make at least half of the ingredients local and/or organic while charging guests a fee of the host’s choice to benefit the Farming Association. There are prizes for best menu, most guests attending and most money raised. 

Involving less work for the challenger, there is also an option to attend a harvest meal at a participating restaurant. I’m pleased to say that two Adirondack restaurants have stepped up to take the Locavore Challenge. Green Goddess Natural Market in Lake Placid is serving a meal from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27, and Turtle Island Café in Willsboro is serving dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29. Between them, they are sourcing food from at least 10 Adirondack farms. Make your reservations for what will surely be creative and delicious fare.

For a locavore event the whole family will enjoy, check out the Farm 2 Fork Festival from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, at the Saranac Lake Village farmers market. The Adirondack Green Circle and the AuSable Valley Grange sponsor this sumptuous celebration of local food with tastings of treats from around the North Country. 

If you choose to participate in the challenge, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York’s website has a long list of action items to explore. There is no charge to participate; however, some events collect donations to help support organic-farming efforts and eating locally in New York.

Even if you don’t participate, you’ll find scads of useful information about eating local foods. And be sure to check out the Adirondack Harvest website,, and use the search engine to find specific goods.

Laurie Davis is an educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Essex County and is the coordinator for Adirondack Harvest. Reach her at 962-4810, Ext. 404, or by email: