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Published September 21, 2007 08:12 AM

A Beginner’s Guide to Eating Local

Open your fridge and see what's inside: You might find strawberries from California, cheese from Wisconsin and maybe even a few lamb chops from New Zealand. Doesn't it strike you as a little bit odd that your everyday food might have more frequent flyer points than you do?

As we all know, organic's been America's favorite buzzword for quite some time now. And while that's all well and good, those organic bananas you slice over your breakfast cereal aren't entirely benign: Their path from a Guatemalan farm to your local supermarket guzzles up more gas than you do in a month's worth of driving. Bananas aren't the only culprits, either: Each ingredient in the average kitchen has traveled at least 1,500 miles before making an appearance on the dinner table.

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So how can you make your fruits and leafy greens a bit, well, greener? Simple: Stick with locally grown food.

Don't worry – we don't recommend that you subsist solely on the puny tomatoes from your backyard veggie patch. But no matter where you live, you should be able to find fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, farm-raised meats, and plenty of other delectable goodies from within 100 miles of your home. Eating local is easier on the environment, but it's also a great way to support your local farmers – not to mention, your food is ultra-fresh, coming straight from the earth to your plate.

If you'd like to bring your diet a little closer to home, here are some great ways to get started.

Stop in at your local farmers' market for some local-grown fruits, veggies, and much more. You shouldn't have far to go – there are weekly and even daily farmers' markets in every U.S. city from spring through mid-fall. To find the one closest to you, visit http://www.localharvest.org/

Join a community-supported agriculture program, or CSA. For a flat fee (usually around $300-400 dollars per season), you can have your fill of all the freshest produce from a local farm. Never tried a turnip? Here's your chance.

Grow your own. Sure, you'll still need to go shopping, but you can easily grow vegetables like cucumber, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers to mix into your daily meals, along with fresh herbs like basil, cilantro and dill for that extra hint of flavor.

There's no need to go overboard with the trend – unless you're lucky enough to live in one of those places blessed with year-round sun, you'd probably starve trying to eat local in the dead of winter. But these days, when ripe fruits and veggies abound on every farm, why not try to stick with fresh food direct from your neck of the woods?

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