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Living Longer, Living Better | Health

Going ‘locavore’ to stay fit

Fresh foods from area farmers, fishermen help baby boomers maintain a healthy lifestyle

Debee Tlumacki for the Boston Globe

Coll Walker took advantage of his farm stand’s produce to change his diet for the better.

When Coll Walker was diagnosed with high cholesterol eight years ago, he elected to skip Lipitor and other pharmaceutical solutions. Instead he found the remedy literally at his feet - rows and rows of it growing in the sweet soil of Little Compton, R.I.: his own produce.

The owner of Walker’s Roadside Stand, a farm stand revered in local food circles, Walker helped himself to his own medicine, reorganizing his diet around the fresh spinach, beets, peas, and other produce he has grown for four decades.

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The result? “My cholesterol total dropped over 100 points,’’ said Walker.

The local food movement arrived just in time for the baby boom generation. Even as they head into retirement, many boomers do not plan on slowing down much, if at all. And good nutrition and sound eating habits are crucial to maintaining that active lifestyle with an aging body.

“With anyone - especially people over 50 - there is a link between healthy fresh food and a healthy lifestyle,’’ said Bridget Meigs, an environmental sciences instructor at Stonehill College who also runs the produce farm attached to the Easton school.

“Vitamins and fiber are preventative measures for any heart-related condition that might become issues as a body ages. If you’re older, or at risk for any heart disease, veggies and fruits are essential in your diet. And if you get them locally, all the better,’’ said Meigs.

The “locavore’’ movement - fresh healthy foods from local producers - delivers fruits and vegetables richer in nutrients than those shipped in from, say, California. Meats and fish from farmers and fishermen are likely to taste better and be free of the additives found in factory farms.

Being a locavore does not mean going back to the farm whole hog. You can still shop in markets, but an independent grocer is more likely to stock shelves with local-grown foods than a big-box market. At Lees’ Market in Westport, for instance, shelves are chockfull of goods, from fruits and veggies, to honey and wine, that were made or grown within a 15-mile radius of the store.

Bridget Meigs (second from left), says locally produced veggies and fruits are always better.

George Rizer for The Boston Globe

Bridget Meigs (second from left), says locally produced veggies and fruits are always better.

“I trust local farmers far more than I do our industrial food chain,’’ said owner Al Lees III. “I firmly believe that local farmers, in general, choose their fertilizers more carefully and are more sensitive to the issues of quality than our industrial farms.’’

Better still, is to make good eating an active pursuit. Find a local farmers’ market or make a day trip to a farm stand. Joining a so-called community supported agriculture group, will not only get you a steady supply of fresh eats, but the satisfaction of keeping local farmers, fishermen, and other producers in business.

Garry Clayton, a professor of sustainability studies at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, said joining a community group or shopping at a local farmers’ market are in and of themselves “manifestations of healthy living.’’

“There’s quite a lot of research that shows that people who actively engage in a community - such as a CSA or a farmers’ market - are typically healthier than individuals living isolated,’’ Clayton said. “And with CSAs and farmers’ markets, you’re also helping other people in your community to live healthy.’’

In a community agriculture group, consumers sign up for a season of deliveries from a local farm or other producers, and usually get deliveries weekly, depending on the provider. For farms, many offer a half-share - a single person - for around $300, and a full share, or family share, for about $600. But for 19 weeks of food during a typical season members usually end up receiving more than $600 worth of groceries.

There is still time for consumers to enroll in these local farm-buying groups, as the deliveries for many do not often begin until June. Some groups have established drop-off locations in and around Greater Boston to make it more convenient for members; others require members to visit the farms.

The community group at Brix Bounty Farm in Dartmouth runs for 20 weeks, beginning in early June, and runs $600 to $650 for a full share, and $450 to $500 for a partial share.

Brix farmer Derek Christianson said an added benefit of the agriculture group is learning more about how your food is raised, from basic questions such as soil conditions.

“It’s the micronutrients, the complex minerals in the soil, that create the building blocks for healthy plants,’’ said Christianson, a member of the Bionutrient Food Association, a nonprofit Massachusetts organization whose objective is to increase the quality in the US food supply.

Christianson said baby boomers are often shocked at how good a home-grown ear of corn or fistful of berries can taste. “If you grew up in the ‘50s or ‘60s eating canned green beans, well, pick some up at a local farm stand and you’ll be blown away,’’ he said. “Cook them with a little salt and butter, or you just eat them raw - they’re delicious.’’

For farmers’ markets or community supported agriculture programs

nofamass.org/programs

massfarmersmarkets.org

farmfreshri.org

Additional information:

bionutrient.org

localfoods.org

foodroutes.org

Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com.
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