The Oxford University Press blog has announced the new Word of the Year: “Locavore.” Here is how their choice was explained on the Oxford blog:

The past year saw the popularization of a trend in using locally grown ingredients, taking advantage of seasonally available foodstuffs that can be bought and prepared without the need for extra preservatives.

The “locavore” movement encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow or pick their own food, arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Locavores also shun supermarket offerings as an environmentally friendly measure, since shipping food over long distances often requires more fuel for transportation.

“The word ‘locavore’ shows how food-lovers can enjoy what they eat while still appreciating the impact they have on the environment,” said Ben Zimmer, editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press. “It’s significant in that it brings together eating and ecology in a new way.”

“Locavore” was coined two years ago by a group of four women in San Francisco who proposed that local residents should try to eat only food grown or produced within a 100-mile radius. Other regional movements have emerged since then, though some groups refer to themselves as “localvores” rather than “locavores.” However it’s spelled, it’s a word to watch.

My prediction: you’ll not often hear “locavore” or “localvore” spoken on the TV or written in any major newspaper in 2008. I don’t believe “locavore” was chosen as the word of the year because of its popularity. I believe it was chosen because the folks at Oxford University Press want it to become popular.

But is it a word worth knowing? I don’t think so. To quote Eric Cartman, “It’s all a bunch of tree-hugging hippie crap.” Why is it important to eat only food grown within a 100-mile radius? The claim is that “local products are more nutritious and taste better.” The nutritive value of locally-produced food is greater if locally-grown products are fresher than what you would find in a supermarket, but it’s too subjective to claim local foods “taste better.” The article goes on to report that locavores also skip supermarket produce because they claim the food travels longer distances, requiring more fuel to move it. And all that fuel is bad, Bad, BAD for the environment, don’t you know? After all, the previous Oxford Word of the Year was “carbon neutral.” Tree-hugging hippy crap, indeed.

But what happens if you don’t live within 100 miles of fresh food? If you live in the middle of Wyoming, what are your options for fresh food in the middle of January? I, for one, am glad to be able to buy fresh vegetables and fruit from around the globe. In midwinter, the other option is frozen, bottled, and canned vegetables and fruits. I don’t know how you feel about it, but I prefer fresh food over preserved whenever I can get it. And I’m glad that winter in the U.S. means summer in Chile, Argentina and Australia.

If you want an unhealthy dose of tree-hugging hippy crap, head on over to www.locavores.com and read self-righteous statements like the following:

Why Eat Locally?

Our food now travels an average of 1,500 miles before ending up on our plates. This globalization of the food supply has serious consequences for the environment, our health, our communities and our tastebuds. Much of the food grown in the breadbasket surrounding us must be shipped across the country to distribution centers before it makes its way back to our supermarket shelves. Because uncounted costs of this long distance journey (air pollution and global warming, the ecological costs of large scale monoculture, the loss of family farms and local community dollars) are not paid for at the checkout counter, many of us do not think about them at all.

It is precisely because we don’t pay extra at the supermarket that we choose to shop there in the first place. Sure, people can shop at local farmers’ markets (when they’re available) and choose from over 20 varieties of tomatoes, but food costs will be higher. And if you only buy locally-grown food, where will you buy your corn, wheat, and rice if you don’t live in a corn-, wheat- or rice-growing area? Perhaps we should all move to San Francisco to enjoy a year-round growing season–but if we did, the population pressure alone would squeeze out any remaining local farms and convert them to housing.

No, I say the logical thing for a dedicated locavore to do is to move out of the city and set up a farming commune out in the country. That way the locavores can enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of their labors fresher than at a local farmers’ market and rejoice in getting back to nature with a “more-locavore-than-thou” attitude. Besides, until they become farmers themselves, they are not showing true commitment to their cause.

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