Upon entering the Ardmore Farmers Market last week any self-respecting locavore (or "localvore," as it's sometimes spelled), could be forgiven for experiencing the feeling of having traveled one-step-forward, two-steps-back.

It was still fresh news that

locavore

had been anointed the 2007 New Oxford American Dictionary's Word of the Year.

But in dampening tandem, something else was going on: The locavore's habitat - if you just looked around - was shrinking.

A "locavore" is someone who tries to eat locally, seeking out Lancaster County carrots instead of those from the Salinas Valley, the better to curb polluting transport and keep preservatives down and local farmers on the land.

Before they had a name, you could spot locavore types at farmers markets, driven not just by virtue, but by the flavor of fresh-killed chicken and tender lettuce.

But a funny thing happened on the way to greener groceries: The words

farmers market

got hijacked (or maybe

stretched

). And

local

got more complicated.

Say you love local, nonorganic Amish apples. Do you quit them for organic apples from Washington state? Or what if you're into heritage turkeys? Do you snub ones from a top-rate Kansas farmer who needs to ship nationally to maintain old breeds?

At the Ardmore Farmers Market on the Main Line, it doesn't take long to appreciate the locavore's dilemma.

Step up to the coffee stall. Bucks County Coffee roasts in Langhorne. But it sources, of course, from Ethiopia, Sumatra and Guatemala. (Should you be a "fair-trader," this presents an opportunity to salute Third World families by paying a premium for their beans.)

The sushi is rolled at Genji Express with care, the ingredients as global as the tuna trade. The ribbon candy, once a Philadelphia specialty, comes from Brockton, Mass.

But Chaddsford Winery's wines,

ahhh

. They're from just down the road in Chadds Ford, though except in the estate-grown varieties, the grapes may come not from the 100-mile radius favored by locavores, but from up to 300 miles away.

Likewise, Stoltzfus Meats, headquartered in Intercourse, makes its own sausage and scrapple, and smokes ring bologna and sweet hams from Lancaster and Berks County pigs. But 18 months ago, it stopped sourcing local beef because shoppers wanted too few cuts: Its red meat is now shipped from packinghouses in Kansas and Nebraska.

And on and on. Bread baked locally from grain half a continent away. Cheese from Chester County and Greece, Spain and Emilia-Romagna in Italy. Egg noodles from Honey Brook, Chester County, and avocados from Mexico. Shrimp from Texas, mussels from Maine, crab from Indonesia, salmon from New Zealand. (New Zealanders, by the way, argue that it's better for the environment for a Londoner to eat its lamb, grazed on lush pasture, than to buy English lamb that requires more feed and other intensive inputs.)

There's a Trader Joe's next door to the farmers market. And here the smorgasbord grows; brown, pre-fried rice from China, Italian olive oil, French butter, Belgian chocolate, Canadian maple syrup.

One can still feel virtuous - about something. The shelves groan with products both "organic" and "natural." The frozen mahimahi may be flown in from Peru, but it's "wild-caught." The chips are "reduced-guilt."

Which is of some solace. It can be lonely being a locavore, validated in word, tested in deed: The times may be ripe, but the local produce isn't.

The locavore's dilemma? Winter.

Contact columnist Rick Nichols at 215-854-2715 or rnichols@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/ricknichols

.