Eating (Really) Local

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Calling yourself a “locavore” may no longer be met with blank stares, requiring you to explain that you prefer eating locally produced food. But lately, boundaries defining “local” are shrinking—from within a 100-mile radius of your home to as little as one block. Ironically, the hub for this trend of “hyperlocal” eating just may be the Web.

With the help of the new online resource Veggie Trader, Los Angeles resident Robert Moss, for one, is linking up with neighbors to swap fruit he gathers in his backyard for their homegrown produce and preserves.

“This is the ultimate in eating close to home,” says Portland, Ore.—based Rob Anderson, one of the creators of the site, which has registered more than 5,000 users nationwide.

Connecting home gardeners with their neighbors to swap, buy, or sell excess fruits and veggies, Veggie Trader reinvents bartering, a practice that people who grow their own food have engaged in for millennia. Come the fall harvest, it offers a way to keep cartloads of carrots and zucchini from going to waste. “Veggie Trader is a good idea because so much stuff in people’s backyards just rots,” Moss says. Plus, bartering provides an added social benefit: meeting all those neighbors you never knew you had.

Another Web-based resource draws inspiration from an even more ancient practice: foraging. Fallen Fruit aims to map fruit trees along public streets and sidewalks so that local residents can pick fruit before it’s reduced to waste. Focused for now on California and New Mexico, Fallen Fruit hopes to motivate people across the country to submit to the site neighborhood maps of public access fruit trees. “People are starting to realize that you don’t have to go to the supermarket for a lemon or an orange,” says Fallen Fruit cofounder Matias Viegener, a Californian. “You can just step outside your door.”

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