South Carolina has a new state-sanctioned vocabulary word: Palmettovore.
One might think that a Palmettovore eats palmettos, but one would be wrong. A Palmettovore, according to the SC Department of Agriculture, is “a person who attempts to eat only produce and products grown and processed in South Carolina.”
The word was purportedly coined by the state’s Agriculture Commissioner, Hugh Weathers, but I have a feeling there might have been some marketing types who had something to do with it, too.
As a blended word it is kind of weird. Most words having to do with the classification of feeding habits based on food type–words like carnivore, herbivore, omnivore – have an “i” in the middle. So if you followed this logic, South Carolina’s new word should actually be “Palmettivore.”
But that doesn’t seem right. Somehow Palmettovore looks more authentically South Carolinian than “Palmettivore.”
Also, when blending words, especially in an official capacity, it seems disrespectful to deprive our highly-esteemed state tree of its final vowel.
Fortunately, because of the providential phonemic overlap between “Palmetto” and “-ivore,” when you say it out loud, Palmettovore feels just right on the tongue.
It’s a word you’ll probably hear a lot of as we make our way towards June. That’s because, on May 12, the state House of Representatives resolved to declare June 2009 as Palmettovore Challenge Month.
Here’s the main body of the resolution:
Whereas, across the United States, people who seek to consume foods produced within one hundred miles of where they live are called locavores, and their numbers are growing rapidly; and
Whereas, in the same spirit, South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh E. Weathers has coined the new term "Palmettovore" to mean a person who attempts to eat only produce and products grown and processed in South Carolina; and
Whereas, as a movement, Palmettovorism encourages shoppers to buy properly labeled Certified South Carolina produce and products in season and to dine at Fresh on the Menu restaurants, which make it a practice to serve such produce; and
Whereas, as Palmettovorism grows, it will support sustainable, local food production, processing, and distribution networks that reach supermarkets and restaurants statewide. This integration enhances the economic, environmental, and social health of the State; and
Whereas, Palmettovores make the conscious lifestyle choice to eat Certified South Carolina Grown produce and products because they are healthier and better for the economy; and
Whereas, in support of our State's economic, environmental, and social well-being, the House of Representatives urges South Carolinians across the Palmetto State regularly to seek out and take advantage of locally grown produce and products.
To promote the Palmettovore challenge, the Department of Agriculture has created website, www.palmettovore.com .
The “Where to Shop” link connects to the Certified SC Grown web site, www.certifiedscgrown.com. That site includes a number of Lowcountry farmers and fishermen.
The “Where to Eat” link doesn’t work as of press time. When it’s fixed, I expect (based on the language in the resolution) that it’s going to take you a list of restaurants that are participating in the state’s Fresh on the Menu program.
There’s also a pretty funny video that shows a bunch of Fruit-of-the-Loomish characters extolling the virtues of buying local. The central character, Tom Tomato, is a middle-aged white male (imagine that coming out of Columbia). Supporting roles include Priscilla Peach, Carter Corn, Chuck Collard, Stella Strawberry and Walter Watermelon. These actors demonstrate that our state has an appropriate level of respect for ethnic and gender diversity.
Talking points for this troupe of tights-clad fruits and vegetables: Being a Palmettovore is healthy for individuals, it helps the local economy, and it helps slow climate change by reducing your carbon footprint. And yes, they manage to make this entertaining.
In the next column I’ll take a look at area businesses that are partnering with the Department of Agriculture in the Palmettovore challenge.
Until then, eat your veggies. And make sure they are from South Carolina.