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Eating Local Food in Pennsylvania - Becoming a Locavore

Updated on September 29, 2022

Loca what?

Herbivores eat plants. Carnivores eat meat. Omnivores eat both plants and meat. Detritivores aka scavengers eat decaying matter or animals killed by other organisms. So what does a locavore eat? According to Jennifer Maiser, editor of the Eat Local Challenge Website, “Locavores are people who pay attention to where their food comes from and commit to eating local food as much as possible ." In short, a locavore eats locally grown food.

",,,our own food peace of mind." P.Cornmesser
",,,our own food peace of mind." P.Cornmesser

Loca why?

On Maiser's site, she lists 10 Reasons to Eat Local Food - here are a few:

  • It aids the local economy
  • It means fresher food
  • It means better taste
  • It's organic
  • It supports local providers

But Maiser lives in Georgia and I live in Pennsylvania and I wanted to see what local locavores had to say, hence Paula Cornmesser.

Cornmesser and her husband, Kent, own Big Oak Ridge, a “20 acre homestead located in the “foothills of the Allegheny Mountains" where their mission is, "... to empower people with knowledge and skills to live a sustainable lifestyle by providing information, education, demonstrations and tools." Their “Ramblings from the Ridge” page contains everything from pictures of newborn goats to how to make your own pasta. “The Locavorium” is a helpful page for local eating enthusiasts that lists where to find honey, grain and fresh milk in the area.

As I sat down to read correspondence from Paula, I popped open a can of soup and thought about the residents at Big Oak Ridge. The Cornmessers try to eat only what is grown or produced within 100 miles of their home. (It appears that 100 miles is a popular radius for locavores.) A large garden, chicken, goats, wild game and fruit bearing trees and bushes are part of their diet. They supplement this with local milk, honey and other food that fits the Big Oak Ridge philosophy. A philosophy that states:

1. We will grow or produce as much food as we can on our farm.

2. We will search for organic and non-GMO products within 100 miles of our home. If a product is not grown in our area, we will look for products: first, in Pennsylvania, second, on the East Coast and third, within the United States.

3. If it is impossible to get the product in the US (IE: coffee, coconut oil), we will look for an organic, Fair Trade source.

4. We are NOT making a religion of this and will not turn up our noses at parties and in other’s homes…we will be gracious and thankful for the hospitality of others.


Loca how?

So it's not a religion, but more a lifestyle and when questioned how does one become a locavore, Cornmessser offers the following advice:

1. Try to eliminate processed foods from your diet.

2. Search for organic or better yet "Certified naturally grown" foods.

3. Look for local products or farm products, CSAs (community supported agriculture) or in a pinch, Whole Food Markets.

4. Network with other folks to get information on where to buy the best local products.

"One of the mantras of the local movement is to 'know your farmer' - the better you know the farmer personally," says Cornmesser, "the more you can ask him/her how their product is raised and what, if any, chemicals and additives have been used in the process." Not everything is grown by farmers, per se so Cornmesser said when it comes to local farm markets or roadside veggie stands - it is important to know where this produce is coming from and if it is organic or not. As with anything, "ask"!

The farmers at Big Oak Ridge suggest "baby steps" for those who would like to start eating local.


The Cornmessers aren't the only ones promoting the locavore lifestyle - "We'd also like to see Americans celebrate local, seasonal and artisanal ingredients by buying fresh produce directly from the farmers in their communities." says Jeff Deasy of American Feast in a Huffington Post article. "Locally grown vegetables and fruits harvested within hours of landing on your table just can't be beat for the vibrancy of their flavors. The longer the time between harvesting food and getting it to your table the more plant cells break down and sugars turn to starches. The result is less vivid flavor and the loss of important nutrients."

For Cornmesser, eating locally goes even further than taste: "I’m sure everyone has an opinion why their food choices are better, healthier, easier and more tasty", she says, "but for us, this is our choice…for sustainability, environmental stewardship and our own food peace of mind."


Certified Naturally Grown: (CNG) is a non-profit alternate farm assurance certification program created for small-scale organic farmers, and striving to strengthen the organic movement by preserving high organic standards and removing financial barriers that tend to exclude smaller farms that are selling locally and directly to their customers.

CSA (Community Support Agriculture) is a system in which a farm operation is supported by shareholders within the community who share both the benefits and risks of food production.

Locavore: A person interested in eating food that is locally
produced, not moved long distances to market. One often cited, but not
universal, definition of "local" food is food grown within 100 miles of
its point of purchase or consumption

Non-GMO: These are products that are not Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). GMOs refer to plants and animals with an altered genetic make-up. GMOs are generally altered or manipulated by a non-natural means in order to incorporate genes from another organism. Usually genetic engineering (GE) is done to achieve a trait not normally held by an organism, such as longer shelf life, disease resistance or different colors or flavors.

Organic: grown or made without the use of artificial chemicals

Fair Trade Source: is an organized social movement that aims to help producers in developing countries to make better trading conditions and promote sustainability.

Sustainability: There is no simple definition of 'sustainability'. It can be an idea, a property of living systems, a manufacturing method or a way of life. In fact, there may be as many definitions of sustainability as there are people trying to define it.

However, most definitions include:

  • living within the limits of what the environment can provide
  • understanding the many interconnections between economy, society and the environment
  • the equal distribution of resources and opportunities.

Whole Foods Market, Inc. - is an American foods supermarket chain that first opened on September 20, 1980. Whole Foods market sells high quality natural and organic foods, advances sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship, and actively supports local and global community programs.

What does a *locavore do over summer vacation...

Harvested from 2 planted beds
13 quarts
Harvested from established plants
17 quarts
Harvested from a friend's tree
13 pints of jelly
Harvested from established bushes
10 quarts
Harvest from 2 planted beds
36 pints
Green Beans
Harvested from 2 planted beds
74 pints, 38 quarts and 12 quarts of dilly beans
Harvested from 24 plants
Fresh eating and 11 quarts of sweet pickles
Harvested from 24 plants
5 gallon bags and 14 quart bags
Harvested from 2 planted beds
13 quarts of frozen diced onions
Purchased 3 bushel
94 quarts
Harvested from 24 plants
25 quart bags
Harvested from 50 plants
10 quarts whole, 21 quarts juice, 14 quarts and 32 pints spaghetti sauce and 32 pints salsa
Harvested from a friend's tree
65 quarts applesauce, 18 pints applebutter, 10 pints apple jelly
Purchased 1 bushel
Stored for winter eating
Sweet Potatoes
Harvested from 8 plants
25 lbs stored for winter eating
Harvested from 3 plants
8 bags in freezer, stored for winter eating
Harvested from 4 beds
2 bushels stored for winter eating and 14 quarts canned
Harvested from 1 bed
13 quarts and 13 pints and three large bags stored for winter eating
Harvested from 48 plants
12 bags of sour kraut and 23 quarts frozen cabbage plus stored for winter eating
Spaghetti Squash
Harbest from 1/2 bed
11 bags frozen and over a bushel stored for winter eating
3 young raised
42 pints of canned meat
12 agiing laying
9 quarts and 9 pints of canned chicken soup base
100 meat raised
Sold 25-30 for profit
5 harvested by various family
Several bags frozen

*Paula Cornmesser produced over 800 jars/bags of canned or frozen produce over summer/fall 2013. She also stored 5 bushels of crops for winter eating. This is her breakdown.


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