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Q&A With Jen Maiser

Locavore, Author, Local Foods Expert

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Updated May 07, 2012
Jen Masier, locavore, author of Life Begins At 30, and founder of The Eat Local Challenge, writes and eats in San Francisco. Local Foods sat down with Jen and asked her a few questions about eating locally.

How do you eat?

Very well! I eat an extremely varied diet, and I eat about 80% of my meals at home. When eating at home, I choose my food sources pretty carefully. Walking into my kitchen, there are probably hints all around of the season. This time of year, I usually have strawberries sitting out, and a bowl of peas ready to be shucked. Right now, my kitchen will be overrun with cherries—they are my favorite fruit and I eat them with abandon during the four short weeks that we get them locally each spring.

That's not to say that everything in my kitchen is from nearby. I drink coffee which is always from far away, and buy pasta from Italy and have a few cans of tomatoes and beans in my pantry as backup when I don't have my own products. I cook a lot of Asian foods, so I have things like bonito flakes and condiments that are from Asia. When the products aren't local, they are usually pretty specifically chosen: they're either organic, or from a specific provenance (pasta and salt-cured capers from Italy, brie and champagne from France for instance) or from a family farm.

How do you define "local"?

Generally, I define it as 150 miles from my home. But that's a fuzzy line. Sometimes, local turns into "localest" or "from the producer I know the best." So much of the eat local movement is about supporting my community, and building relationships with the growers of my food. Knowing where the food is grown is the tip of the iceberg—ideally I want to know how it's grown, and how the business is run. So even though my avocado grower is not from within my 150-mile circle, I buy avocados from him on a regular basis because I like his product, we have a rapport, and I choose to support him with my dollar.

How much of your food comes from local sources?

On a daily basis, about 70% of the food that I eat comes from local sources.

Any tips for people who want to start eating more local foods?

Choose five products that you can buy locally and focus on those to begin. Some ideas are lettuce, herbs, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, apples, and tomatoes. Start with those and work your way up. When you can't find a product that's locally sourced, try finding one that is created or processed by a local purveyor, such as coffee that's roasted locally.

Go to your farmers markets. If you're up for the challenge, join a CSA [ed. community-supported agriculture]. The magic of a CSA is that you don't have to think about where your food is coming from – you just have to figure out what to do with the beautiful fruits and vegetables you'll get from a local farm.

Pay attention to the seasons. Almost before you can start eating locally, you have to remember what food comes in what season. As a society, we're used to picking up blueberries at the supermarket anytime we want them – forgetting that they are a fruit that is available during a pretty short window in the summertime.

Want to hear more from Jen? Check out her 10 Steps to Eating Locally.

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