Want to buy food produced locally? Looking for farmers markets and local-foods restaurants nearby? The Roanoke Valley Locavore Directory is out, produced with the help of VT EarthWorks.

“Locavores, or people committed to eating foods produced or grown locally, now have an easy way to connect with producers, retailers, and even each other,” says Christy Gabbard, director of VT EarthWorks. “The directory is amazingly comprehensive and includes everything from vegetables, meat, and cider, to restaurants, markets, and bakeries.”

Restaurants and stores from large to small are featured, from the family-run Big Fat Jerry’s Seasoning in Clifton Forge, Va., to the Hotel Roanoke, which partners with farmers in the region. Mattie’s Mountain Mud in New Castle, Va., sells fresh-roasted organic coffee. More than two-dozen farmers markets and food co-ops are included with descriptions and contact information.

The directory also contains links to six blogs devoted to various aspects of local foods, including “produce, flowers, and honey” and “community supported agriculture.”

You can view the directory online or pick up a printed copy at many area libraries, Virginia Cooperative Extension offices, and farmers markets. To distribute copies of the 2010 Roanoke Valley Locavore Directory at a business, contact Christy Gabbard at (540) 767-6114.

“The benefits of buying local are numerous,” Gabbard says. “Money stays within your local community and supports local farmers. Transportation routes are shortened, providing environmental benefits as well.”

VT EarthWorks is part of Virginia Tech’s Outreach and International Affairs and has been developed in partnership with Virginia Cooperative Extension. VT EarthWorks helps growers, farmers, and other businesses in the startup or expansion phases by providing access to markets, land-lease arrangements, innovative technology, and research.

Extension agents are working on numerous projects to encourage agricultural producers to sell their products in local markets and consumers to buy local foods. In addition to compiling the directory of local farmers, Extension agents in Roanoke have hosted cooking demonstrations and tastings, a food challenge, and food preservation demonstrations to teach citizens about eating seasonal fruits and vegetables grown in their own community. They have also hosted vegetable gardening events such as the 1940s-inspired Vegetables for Victory Garden Challenge, taught elementary-age youth about gardening and growing their own food, and collaborated with regional producers to showcase food grown in the Roanoke Valley.

Virginia Tech’s Outreach and International Affairs supports the university’s engagement mission by creating community partnerships and economic development projects, offering professional development programs and technical assistance, and building collaborations to enrich discovery and learning – all with the overarching goal of improving the quality of life for people within the commonwealth and throughout the world. Outreach and International Affairs leads Virginia Tech’s presence on five continents; its regional research and development centers across the commonwealth focus on graduate education and professional development. Blacksburg-based centers are dedicated to student engagement, language, policy, and governance.