Eating locally
April 12, 2007 7:37 AM   Subscribe

In the grand scheme of things, eating locally grown food may be more important than eating organically grown foods. To help you reach that goal, there's 100-Mile Diet, a blog that deals with the benefits and pitfalls of trying to eat only foods grown locally; The Eating Well Guide, which will help you find markets, restaurants, etc. that go along with the sustainable foodthink; and Local Harvest, which will help you find local and organically grown food sources. (PS. Now's probably the time to start signing up for your favorite CSA!)
posted by Dave Faris (54 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Checkout as well for a good source of local ranches (for those of us who eat meat).
posted by blixco at 7:43 AM on April 12, 2007

I will be more than happy to jump on the "locally grown" bandwagon once it starts being reasonable. This is the 21st century and I am not going to stop eating salsa in the winter just because there isn't enough sun at my latitude to grow tomatoes then. But sure, it definitely makes sense to eat locally of those things that will grow there. Local milk and cheese, things that will store well for months at a time, all great ideas. But I'm pretty sure there's no sugarcane/beet plantations within 100 miles of my house.
posted by DU at 7:48 AM on April 12, 2007

I should add that I'm not a climate-science-denying moron and I love green technology. Maybe I just don't understand what the big problem is with shipping orange juice from Florida to New Hampshire.
posted by DU at 7:53 AM on April 12, 2007

Yeah, this is kinda tough in a place like Finland. Doable. But not pleasant. I'd probably end up getting scurvy.

It is an interesting concept and definitely worth investigating. Fresh food is always, always so much nicer.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:54 AM on April 12, 2007

Maybe I just don't understand what the big problem is with shipping orange juice from Florida to New Hampshire.

They use trucks, trucks emit carbon, the further trucks travel, the more carbon they emit. To try and quantise this a bit, here's a UK estimate for carbon emissions and fuel transport (see p60 onwards in the link).

Road transport accounts for 24% of all UK CO2 emissions, freight accounts for 35% of transport CO2 emissions, thus 8.4% of all UK CO2 emissions. Food is 28% of all freight, so about 2.5 % of total UK CO2 emissions. This might sound like a low figure but it's a fair reduction if it can be addressed. In terms of individual consumers it's one of the areas where people can actually take some responsbility and do so without huge personal inconvenience. It would probably be possible to put together an argument that consumers are being hypocritical in considering smaller impacts like this while not considering energy costs of other purchases (eg cars, houses).
posted by biffa at 8:15 AM on April 12, 2007

There was a program on the BBC last year called Urban Chef about a restaurant in London trying to source all of their ingredients within the area served by the London Underground. The web page has some really nice recipes.

The best thing about local foods is that you can find varieties that actually taste good. Long distance foods are typically of mechanically strong, aesthetically pleasing varieties. Supermarket strawberries, anyone?

The more we have of this kind of local sourcing, the better
posted by Jakey at 8:20 AM on April 12, 2007

Maybe I just don't understand what the big problem is with shipping orange juice from Florida to New Hampshire.

Oil doesn't grow on trees...(well, you know, not exactly)

I think part of the idea is that you eat locally to the extent that you can.
With things like orange juice, imported wines/cheeses etc...those things have to be shipped...they should definitely be enjoyed, but with a true understanding of the environmental cost to deliver them to your door.
Once you get used to eating locally farmed, seasonal food, it becomes pretty natural...
I get used to living on root vegetables and fresh greens (here in the Pacific Northwest) throughout the winter, and wouldn't look twice at a flat of watery strawberries, hauled up I-5 on a refrigerated truck.
Come summer time, I'm dying for that first ripe tomato, and it's worth the wait.

/early morning, half coherent rant
posted by dan g. at 8:22 AM on April 12, 2007

Maybe I just don't understand what the big problem is with shipping orange juice from Florida to New Hampshire.

How about catching crabs off North America, shipping them to China to get the meat taken out, then back to North America for the consumer? Our food travels an average of 1500 miles to our table. The snow peas in my local supermarket are from China. We can't grow snow peas in Canada? The oil we eat.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:24 AM on April 12, 2007

2.5%, but you can't eliminate all of it anyway (like, where is Alaska going to get food? Is their growing season even long enough to support the population? I guess one could argue we shouldn't be there then...). We'd save a lot more, and with a lot less grumbling, by switching from incandescent to CFLs.
posted by DU at 8:25 AM on April 12, 2007

I guess this is where I link to my own project that makes the business of locally grown foods easy for both the grower and the consumer:

Since I went live (here on Projects), the system has spread to nine states and thirteen markets. More are being added each week. My own market in Athens, GA is now in its sixth year.
posted by ewagoner at 8:51 AM on April 12, 2007

We'd save a lot more, and with a lot less grumbling, by switching from incandescent to CFLs.

You could do both.

Our modern grocery stores have really spoiled us. We can get seasonal foods year round thanks to shipments from the southern hemisphere.

The ideal of eating only locally grown foods is a goal. If you live in less temperate zones, merely contemplating if there is a local alternative to your chilean grown grapes, and occasionally purchasing the local alternative (or doing without them entirely) might be the best you can hope for. I expect only the most disciplined people can manage 100% locally grown food.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:53 AM on April 12, 2007

In the grand scheme of things, this is Adbusters-style propagandizing (check out MacKinnon's biblio) with a side order of hypocrisy. Before the HMD plan, he was a fairly obnoxious vegetarian and made a decent sum pushing that agenda in his writings. And then this. "No soy within 100 miles? Oh, OK. It's more important to eat local duck. Really. Perfectly ethical. No, no, I wasn't wrong before, I'm just more right now."

I know for a fact that they didn't cut coffee from their diets immediately (they're friends-of-a-friend), so I have to wonder how else they're cheating. They talk the talk, and drive part of the walk.

And I guarantee that those of us who don't drive a car and drink frozen OJ leave a smaller carbon footprint than they do, through their eating local-only (except when they cheat) and driving for pleasure ("Stranded in their off-the-grid summer cottage in the Canadian wilderness..." -- they sure as hell didn't walk there).

I'm as much a lefty as the next guy, and more of a foodie than the next guy. Is buying and eating locally a positive step? Yes, undoubtedly. But I don't trust the messengers, so I'm suspicious of this particular message.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:56 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is a fine idea, and one that is gaining traction with mainstream America. It was even in Time magazine recently.

From personal experience, locally-grown produce always beats stuff that's shipped from afar in quality, taste, and freshness (note that those 3 categories have considerable overlap). So, if for no other reason, choose locally grown foods based on taste. Food that will be in transit for several days is generally harvested/picked before it's really ripe. Meats and many kinds of produce require expensive climate control en route as well; not so good for the envirmoment, or the consumer.

There are also these great "farm share" programs where you get a bushel of fresh produce from a nearby farm every week. I am looking at a few of them right now, trying to get one that does business in Philly. They're still shipping the stuff, but over a much shorter distance.

Now, I don't think you have to completely forsake eating delicacies shipped from afar, but it's to the benefit of everyone involved to buy from local farmers whenever you can.
posted by Mister_A at 9:02 AM on April 12, 2007

There are insane amount of books on this subject coming out within the next few months, including one by Barbara Kingsolver. Most of them follow people as they try to eat locally for roughly a year.

Personally, I'm not going to try this, but I think it should be pretty easy in my state.
posted by drezdn at 9:02 AM on April 12, 2007

Well said solid one love.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:05 AM on April 12, 2007

My local (Canadian) chain grocery store gets their produce mostly from California and South America. This is understandable for most of the year, since local peaches are pretty hard to come by in February. But what about the summer and fall harvest months? During fruit harvest time (and there's plenty of local fruit, especially from the Niagara region) they still carry only imported produce - no local stuff at all. When I asked the produce manager about this, he said they had an exclusive contract with the import wholesalers, and weren't allowed to carry anything else.

Shop at your local farmers' market more often.
posted by rocket88 at 9:11 AM on April 12, 2007

I assume you are talking about the first link, the 100-mile diet, SOL. The other organizations linked here do not appear to have anything to do with 100-mile diet.
posted by Mister_A at 9:12 AM on April 12, 2007

I heard a radio show about the 100 mile diet and more generally about local foods. I think it was this episode but forgive me if not.

What interested me the most was at the end of the program, they had a speaker talking about how the best solution is actually somewhere in the middle.

There are many gross inefficiencies in our current model of food traveling thousands of miles, but there are also inefficiencies in the 100 mile diet. A small local livestock producer might be driving 200 miles to a slaughterhouse in his old truck and then driving 200 miles back home with his product. Just because his farm is 20 miles from you, does not mean that the food hasn't travelled far.

The best solution is actually somewhere in the middle, with a strategy of intelligently determining what is efficient to produce and consume locally on smaller scales, and what products need a slightly larger scale production and distribution system.

I highly recommend this radio show by the way. You can listen to it on the website and possibly on a local community / college radio station. Speaking of, Thursday is when it is aired on my local station and I will be eating my lunch in my car so I can catch it.
posted by utsutsu at 9:12 AM on April 12, 2007

I assume you are talking about the first link, the 100-mile diet, SOL.

Yes. Apologies for not being specific.
posted by solid-one-love at 9:15 AM on April 12, 2007

The best solution is actually somewhere in the middle,

and growing your own, if you can (or can be arsed). Apparently there are now waiting lists for allotments across London.
posted by biffa at 9:26 AM on April 12, 2007

It's very, very easy to make steps toward including more locally grown food in your diet. An all-or-nothing mentality never works. This couple did an excellent job of demonstrating creative solutions to the challenge of local sourcing, and they admit up front int he book what their compromises were.

As far as climate and season: don't forget that our ancestors ate beautifully even in northen climates. Can you have salsa in winter? Of course you can - salsa is a canned product. You can make your own, in season, and store it for next winter. My grandmother did that on an extremely large scale with immense amounts of produce - tomato sauce, beans, salsa, fruit, ketchup, jellies - all home produced from the garden and bartering. Canning, freezing, and otherwise preserving are the aces in the hole for local eating. Doing it requires a shift in thinking and an investment of time, but the resulting product is excelllent. And rather than seeing seasonal availability as a sacrifice, you can also see it as a challenge and an adventure in cooking and eating that ties you to the cycles of life at your latitude. Would I be eating ramps and fiddleheads and radishes and leeks and parsnips right now, were I not thinking about local food? Most likely not. But they're delicious, they're fresh, they challenge me to find new recipes and expand my palate, and they connect me to regional traditions.

Eating locally is extra hard because, over the last 50 years or so, we broke down what once was a functioning local food system in which most food was sourced from within about 250 miles of the consumer. Through subsidies and policies, we shifted the bulk of our food sourcing to an industrial scale relying on a nationwide transportation infrastructure and cheap fossil fuel, and our farms became developments and our chickens went to Arkansas. Now that we want to eat locally, we find that our circle of consumer and producer has been broken, and rebuilding it is not easy. It starts step by step. Start with what you can get (a lot more than you'd expect, when you start looking) and move toward encouraging sources for what you can't, yet.

One of my friends mentioned the other day that he walked out of our regional chain supermarket on a quick supply run with a bag of groceries he needed. When he unpacked at the house, he realized that without even trying, almost everything he'd bought had come from within 200 miles of us. Wraps from a bakery in Northern MA, Stonyfield yogurt, Oakhurst Dairy Milk, Ben & Jerry's, the Maine native tomatoes that are being hothouse-grown right now 20 miles from here, and a six-pack of our regional microbrew.

Eating locally is a challenge and a personal commitment. It's like exercise: it's a lot easier not to exercise. It saves time, money, and effort not to. But if you decide that you value the benefits of exercise, you make the additional effort it takes to create the benefit.

The beautiful thing I've found about eating more locally, aside from withdrawing support for an industrial food model I no longer want to encourage, is that it has helped me meet people and make connections within my own community. It's fascinating: it strengthens my life in town that I now know some farmers and growers who have hooked me up with chefs and food writers and professors of agriculture and things like that. Going to the farmer's market has become a great weekly ritual in spring, summer, and fall, that not only helps me stock the larder but also lets me run into neighbors and catch up with friends. The benefits are easily as much social as they are environmental.
posted by Miko at 9:26 AM on April 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

p.s. You can't get locally gorwn coffee or chocolate in New England, but you can get locally roasted coffee and locally produced chocolate, keeping a greater portion of your spending in the local economy.
posted by Miko at 9:29 AM on April 12, 2007

I just thought this was interesting because the CSA link is greyed out for me - I was on there this morning, checking directions to the local one. I managed to grab the last share and I'll be putting in 60 hrs this season for a fantastic discount on fresh veggies, and I'll be at the farm today in the pouring rain.

Sure, it's not practical for everyone (I only work part-time while I finish my thesis), but getting more involved in my own food production was personally important to me. Until I can afford enough land to do chunks of it all on my own (like my parents), this and my silly kitchen herbs are as close as I'm going to get.

I'm not going to get into the 100-mile part, and I do say that while we can, it's nice to have luxury foods. Part of it is that people now live in one place instead of migrating with their seasonal food acquisitions, and there's just too many people living in places that are marginal environments.

And I don't have the math to do the carbon calculations for my engineer father's hydroponic lettuce & tomato setup, (lights, timer, and where do those liquid nutrients come from?) but suffice it to say, we've had fresh tomatoes all winter since that damn visit to EPCOT when I was a kid.

we do not speak of the time he tried to grow corn.
posted by cobaltnine at 9:31 AM on April 12, 2007

I know for a fact that they didn't cut coffee from their diets

Huh. One would have thought it'd be easier to just do without than to cheat like that. But then, I'm not a big coffee drinker... A few headaches, and they'd be free from the pull of Demon Caffeine.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:35 AM on April 12, 2007

#2 On the 100-Mile diet Getting Started Guide is:
There are no rules.
Make your 100-Mile Diet experiment a challenge. If you’re trying it for a day, consider getting tough: every ingredient in every product has to come from within 100 miles (that was our rule for a year). Over a longer period, escape clauses are nice. Maybe the occasional restaurant meal or dinner at friends’ houses? And what will you do if you travel? Ask some deeper questions, too. If you eat meat, where does the feed for the animals come from? If you’re vegetarian, would you be prepared to eat animal products if no beans or tofu are raised where you live? If you just can’t live without coffee, don’t let it stop you. Wave your magic wand and declare it ‘local.’
On their FAQ, they also say:
Are you still on the 100-Mile Diet?
Yes–more or less. We lived a year on the 100-Mile Diet as an experiment. Now we're committed to eating locally, but certain long-distance favorites have made it back into the larder. Like olives. And chocolate. And beer.
The point being that everyone knows there are many challenges to eating locally; that's why more people don't do it. But rather than reject the idea out of hand because it is not 100% pure, think about what would happen if everyone started sourcing even just a quarter to a half of their food locally.
posted by Miko at 9:43 AM on April 12, 2007

Nice post, Dave Faris. (And thanks for the reminder. I just signed up again with our local CSA.)

Miko touched on it, but a really overlooked component of the whole "local diet" thing seems to be alcoholic beverages: beer, wine, etc. My wife and I are pretty fortunate in that there are a couple very good local breweries. (Also, homebrewed hard cider made from locally pressed soft cider is -- in my opinion -- really delicious, really intoxicating, and really "green".) But good wineries... yeah, we don't have a lot of those. A whole lotta energy gets used in the process of moving a bottle of Dom Perignon (or Zinfandel) from France (or California) to Lawrence, KS. Same goes for that tasty Pilsner Urquell (dammit).
posted by cog_nate at 9:46 AM on April 12, 2007

tomatoes that are being hothouse-grown right now 20 miles from here

That report I linked to earlier in the thread points out that there are some exceptions to the idea that reduced food miles = reduced environmental impact. One of them is hothousing.
posted by biffa at 9:58 AM on April 12, 2007

"every ingredient in every product has to come from within 100 miles (that was our rule for a year)."

They say it was their rule, but that was a lie, as I alluded to earlier.

But rather than reject the idea out of hand because it is not 100% pure

I'm not rejecting it, out of hand or otherwise. As I said, "Is buying and eating locally a positive step? Yes, undoubtedly." I am suspicious of the authors of the 100-Mile Diet as they are untrustworthy and politically motivated, and thus I am suspicious of their particular brand of eco-gourmandry.

I find it funny that they listed beer as one of the items on their "cheat list", since there are many, many beers available to them that would fit in the diet. Maybe they found a new favourite during one of their several (small-footprint, surely!) recent trips to Europe.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:01 AM on April 12, 2007

I think utsutsu has the right idea.

The Economist talked about this a while ago:

Surely the case for local food, produced as close as possible to the consumer in order to minimise “food miles” and, by extension, carbon emissions, is clear? Surprisingly, it is not. A study of Britain's food system found that nearly half of food-vehicle miles (ie, miles travelled by vehicles carrying food) were driven by cars going to and from the shops. Most people live closer to a supermarket than a farmer's market, so more local food could mean more food-vehicle miles. Moving food around in big, carefully packed lorries, as supermarkets do, may in fact be the most efficient way to transport the stuff.

What's more, once the energy used in production as well as transport is taken into account, local food may turn out to be even less green. Producing lamb in New Zealand and shipping it to Britain uses less energy than producing British lamb, because farming in New Zealand is less energy-intensive. And the local-food movement's aims, of course, contradict those of the Fairtrade movement, by discouraging rich-country consumers from buying poor-country produce. But since the local-food movement looks suspiciously like old-fashioned protectionism masquerading as concern for the environment, helping poor countries is presumably not the point.

and, in the larger piece:

Obviously it makes sense to choose a product that has been grown locally over an identical product shipped in from afar. But such direct comparisons are rare. And it turns out that the apparently straightforward approach of minimising the “food miles” associated with your weekly groceries does not, in fact, always result in the smallest possible environmental impact.

The term “food mile” is itself misleading, as a report published by DEFRA, Britain's environment and farming ministry, pointed out last year. A mile travelled by a large truck full of groceries is not the same as a mile travelled by a sport-utility vehicle carrying a bag of salad. Instead, says Paul Watkiss, one of the authors of the DEFRA report, it is more helpful to think about food-vehicle miles (ie, the number of miles travelled by vehicles carrying food) and food-tonne miles (which take the tonnage being carried into account).

The DEFRA report, which analysed the supply of food in Britain, contained several counterintuitive findings. It turns out to be better for the environment to truck in tomatoes from Spain during the winter, for example, than to grow them in heated greenhouses in Britain. And it transpires that half the food-vehicle miles associated with British food are travelled by cars driving to and from the shops. Each trip is short, but there are millions of them every day. Another surprising finding was that a shift towards a local food system, and away from a supermarket-based food system, with its central distribution depots, lean supply chains and big, full trucks, might actually increase the number of food-vehicle miles being travelled locally, because things would move around in a larger number of smaller, less efficiently packed vehicles.


So things aren't always cut and dried. The issue certainly has to be looked at further, because the current system is not sustainable. Food for thought (har har).
posted by rider at 10:06 AM on April 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

Ahh yes, economies of scale apply in food production, and those economies necessitate the production of GMO "franken foods" as well as indiscriminate use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc., not to mention the bankrupting of family-owned farmers, and the release of vile waste effluents from huge factory farms, rendering plants, etc.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to stop going to Shop Rite, but I do try to buy locally whenever possible; perhaps I am fortunate in that there are farmers markets in near my house in Philly, and a working orchard/farm near my place of employment.
posted by Mister_A at 10:25 AM on April 12, 2007

That report I linked to earlier in the thread points out that there are some exceptions to the idea that reduced food miles = reduced environmental impact. One of them is hothousing.

That's true and has been a subject of debate here. However, as I tried to mention above, the benefits of local eating are not solely environmental. They are also social: community bonds are created and strengthened; and economic: more money stays within the local economy, gets donated to local causes, and raises the standard of living locally.

There is also an ancillary benefit to biodiversity: because food grown locally doesn't need to be transported long distances, resist rotting and bruising, and ripen artifically on the way, plant varieties that have excellent taste or cooking qualities but are easily damaged in shipping or storage can be allowed to flourish. At our farmer's market we now have an astounding variety of squashes and beans and tomatoes and apples that have not been selected for in the industrialized food system. There are apple varieties - dozens of them - in New England that are incredible, but in danger of exctinction because they lack the disease resistance or ability to withstand shipping or easy grafting that make for successful supermarket apples. But there's a big world beyond red delicious, and local markets are in an excellent position to save plant genetic stock for future generations to build enjoy and build upon. The trend toward monocultures and reduced genetic diversity that is a byproduct of industrialization threatens world heritage. Plant varieties are the result of milennia, sometimes, of human selection and spontaneous variation. It cannot be easily recreated once lost. For more, see the RAFT program and the Ark of Taste.

Another benefit has to do with regional security. Knowing you have a secure food supply within a day's drive allows for more policy possibilities with regard to response to terrorism or natural disaster. Relying on food sources from 3000 miles away simply means we're more vulnerable to breaks in the infrastructure.

Another benefit has to do with land use and planning. Land in agriculture is good for communities; it's part of the tax base but carries little of the demand on public funds that either residential or commercial zones do. With every farm field that becomes a housing development, there are associated costs in roadways, postal service, 911, police and fire, school programs, and other public services. The same is true for stores and offices, which have a heavy impact on town finances that is often out of proportion to any economic growth they can provide. Agriculture is exceeded only by open space/nature preserves as a low-cost, high-benefit use of land within a municipality.

Eating locally has so many separate benefits that it need not be judged solely on its relative environmental advantage over industrialized food.
posted by Miko at 10:30 AM on April 12, 2007

Whoops, forgot my biodiversity links.

RAFT: Renewing America's Food Traditions
The Ark of Taste
also, Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, Ark's parent project.
posted by Miko at 10:33 AM on April 12, 2007

Good info, rider. Because of the particular trade arrangement that Canada (and more specifically, BC) has with Chile, I'd bet a pound of foie that I leave a smaller footprint by walking down to the SuperStore to buy imported iceberg lettuce than someone with a car driving to the farmer's market to buy local watercress.

And then there's the pervasive issue that "farmer's markets" in the lower mainland of BC, where both I and the 100-Mile-Diet folks live, aren't always what they appear to be. You may well be buying snap peas from China. It's almost certain you're not buying local for some items.

So you avoid farmer's markets and instead source your food from trusted vendors. You get your eggs from that guy in Abbotsford, and your free-range chickens from his neighbour. You head over to the you-pick blueberry farm, then get some asparagus in Langley. Then you refill the gas tank.

There's another footprint issue: where does the money go when I spend more on local goods? I much prefer to buy Saltspring Island lamb than New Zealand lamb; there is a marked difference in taste and quality. However, it is typical to pay three times as much for local lamb as for imported lamb. The imported lamb will spend a couple of weeks frozen in the hold of a container ship. But I'll only pay $15 for that boneless leg of lamb, instead of $45 for the same thing produced locally. Where does that extra $30 go? If the $30 is in my pocket, I know exactly where it goes. If it ends up paying part of the lease on the farmer's new car, it's a pretty good bet that it would have been more eco-friendly to buy the New Zealand lamb.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:34 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow, now I'm really hungry. I'll bet Miko is a wicked good cook.
posted by Mister_A at 10:35 AM on April 12, 2007

By choosing to eat whatever tastes best at any given moment you'll most likely also pick the "greenest" option available to you.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:47 AM on April 12, 2007

In the grand scheme of things, eating locally grown food may be more important than eating organically grown foods. [citation needed]
posted by Afroblanco at 11:41 AM on April 12, 2007

Noticing recently that I was swigging clementine juice from Spain and eating Chilean pineapples -- in Canada -- all I could think of were the "Oh, no, no. It just wouldn't work" replies little kids in the western world get when they first hear about third-world poverty, and wonder why the food can't just be sent there...
posted by kmennie at 11:45 AM on April 12, 2007

The way I see it, whether or not the 100-mile rule is an all-encompassingly valid philosophy in every single case or situation, the mere act of you contemplating where the food you buy comes from and what it took to get from there to your shopping cart is more than most people even bother to do.

So if you can calculate that your carbon-footprint is smaller by buying your lettuce that comes from Chile or that comes from the organic gardener the next town over, if you've worked it out and are happy with what you come up with, more power to you.
posted by Dave Faris at 11:47 AM on April 12, 2007

Awesome. Never thought of this. Occasional stops at the local produce corner were more spur of the moment than not. Clicking the link above I find several farmer's markets in my area that I was unaware of previously. Not only that, there is a CSA with a drop point closer than my supermarket! $20/week Offering: "a wide variety of produce from lettuce and other leafy greens to potatoes, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, herbs just to name a few. Boxes contain a 7 to 11 different items a week. We also plant a fall garden and expect to have cabbages brocolli and cauliflower as well as beets spinach carrots turnips and greens this spring."


posted by HyperBlue at 12:11 PM on April 12, 2007

Eh, it's a fad. The cost of transport should be reflected in the price of goods. But it's not! Local foods are just as expensive if not more expensive than goods transported in bulk. If people are really serious about reducing carbon emissions than lobby for taxes on those goods that produce relatively high emissions and let the market go to work. These sorts of individual 'lifestyle choices' achieve nothing but making a few liberals feel good about themselves.
posted by nixerman at 12:56 PM on April 12, 2007

Carbon tax.

Until there are consistent costs for emitting carbon dioxide, all we can do is raise the profile of this issue, and call attention to the myriad ways our consumption contributes to the problem. Being aware of the fossil fuel intense nature of modern industrial globalised agriculture can only help, but at the same time, if you have to drive 20 mins to get to your local farmers market, and you can walk to the Safeway, eating local might not be doing any good. Then there is the issue of how much carbon goes into producing your food. I read an article in the Economist on this issue that claimed it is more energy intensive to raise lamb in the UK than it is to raise it in New Zealand and ship it to the UK. As for me in BC, is it better to get my tomatoes from Chile, or from a natural gas heated greenhouse?

Confusing isn't it? How can we ensure that we are cutting emissions most efficently? Perhaps we can leave it to the market by giving all these emissions a cost. But that would require the exceedingly unlikely confluence of foresight, political action, and international cooperation.

Kurt was right, we're fucked.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:16 PM on April 12, 2007

100-mile diet for Foam Pants: salmon, halibut, crab, herring eggs, beach asparagus. I think I'm going to be losing some weight.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:22 PM on April 12, 2007

Hah, As if I could get local bushmeat.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:40 PM on April 12, 2007

where is Alaska going to get food?

In seal-ed packages.
posted by yohko at 2:16 PM on April 12, 2007

I decided to get involved with a CSA farm this year for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most important was that I knew I was getting food from a smaller, local farmer who cared about the land they were using, the quality of the food they were producing, and the community they were serving. "But how", you ask, "do you really know?". It was very simple actually: I talked with the farmers that were growing it. The Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee had a CSA Open House (which, by the way, was packed almost shoulder-to-shoulder) featuring ~12 farms from around the state of Wisconsin that were involved with CSA. And guess who was there representing the farms? The people that worked on them. You cannot get any more direct than that - wait, no, you can. In fact, not only can you visit the farms anytime you want, not only are you often given a large pick-your-own allotment for certain produce, on some farms you can pay for your CSA share by working on the farm itself. Depending on the farm, you can get vegetables, milk, meat and/or eggs (even things like herbs and pumpkins around Halloween).

Where does the money go when I spend more on local goods?

To the farmer (and optionally store owner/employees - there are no stores involved in CSA) you bought it from.

[What about the transportation of the food to your community and the fuel wasted picking it up?]

The food is produced on a farm, shipped in bulk a small distance, and picked up from a drop-point near where you live. It is just like a shortened version of how you get it from the grocery store, but without the store.

[But you can't trust farmers, so you have to drive to all of these stores that you can trust to get your food]

If you can't trust talking to the person that grows your food and seeing where and how they grow it, then I guess you will just have to frantically drive everywhere and maybe stop to kill a few geese that were looking at you funny along the way. But then again, if you're that paranoid, you really shouldn't bother leaving the house in the first place.

Eh, it's a fad. These sorts of individual 'lifestyle choices' achieve nothing but making a few liberals feel good about themselves.

Yes, because growing food near where you live isn't, you know, anything that's been done before. And the only people that would dare support farmers in their community or enjoy fresh food are pinko tree-huggers. If anything, the modern food distribution network is a fad - people have been growing their food in the communities they live in since, well, ever. Even CSA has been around for 20+ years in WI. And my mother, who is about as conservative as they come, happens to really like the idea and is signing up this year (yes, I know, it's only one example). "Diets" are always fads, and limiting everything you ever eat to things produced within 100 miles of you is stupid, but this is not what CSA is about.

So, yeah, there's the reduced environmental impact, the fresh food, the better strains and the variety of vegetables delivered weekly all season long. But there's also the intangible benefits like knowing (or being able to know) the farmer that grows your food, knowing they care (whether or not they're "certified organic") about what they do and how they do it and who they're doing it for, and being involved (if you want to) with a diverse assortment of other people in your community that, for one reason or another, also like the idea of getting food grown locally and supporting their community. If you don't like it, drive to Jewel-Osco and save $.50 on 4 heads of attractive-looking but tasteless and nutritionally void iceberg lettuce, but please don't shit in our well on your way (i.e, do your own thing, don't knock ours).
posted by nTeleKy at 2:20 PM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

To the farmer

Obviously. I will repeat: "If the $30 is in my pocket, I know exactly where it goes. If it ends up paying part of the lease on the farmer's new car, it's a pretty good bet that it would have been more eco-friendly to buy the New Zealand lamb"

If you can't trust talking to the person that grows your food and seeing where and how they grow it, then I guess you will just have to frantically drive everywhere and maybe stop to kill a few geese that were looking at you funny along the way. But then again, if you're that paranoid, you really shouldn't bother leaving the house in the first place.

If you can't discuss this honestly, please speak up now so I know not to waste my time. I'll address your exact quote, even though you chose to respond to some trumped-up, bullshit strawman paraphrase of what I wrote.

As I wrote, there is a problem in the lower mainland of BC, and I would be very surprised if it wasn't a problem elsewhere in North America, where going to a farmers' market is no guarantee that you're buying from "the person that grows your food", nor even that you're buying food that is any different from what you'll get at the megamart.

Paranoid? Give me a break. This is all well-documented.

I did not address CSAs, I have not talked about CSAs, and I'm still not talking about CSAs. I'm not "shitting in your well". I'm not even talking about your fuckin' well.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:49 PM on April 12, 2007

As someone said earlier, we've largely dismantled our local food producing systems in the U.S.. The model has shifted to less diverse and more lab-grown products. Here in Portland, Oregon, I think we are fortunate to have one of the largest per capita number of farmers markets. All is not lost though, great stuff is being produced all over -- look for it in your area.

Resources worth checking out...
Ecotrust Food & Farms program and its many projects
Farmer-Chef Connection, a workshop that has been connecting local chefs and buyers with farmers and ranchers for over 8 years (part of Chefs Collaborative)
SectionZ magazine, includes an issue about buying local
Renewing Salmon Nation's Food Traditions, the first regional publication under the RAFT idea
EdibleCommunities magazines
VividPicture a big project to envision a statewide sustainable food project for CA
FoodRoutes where does your food come from?
posted by asfuller at 4:08 PM on April 12, 2007

If it ends up paying part of the lease on the farmer's new car, it's a pretty good bet that it would have been more eco-friendly to buy the New Zealand lamb.

I think that's a bit of a stretch. And I would rather have my money go into that farmer's car payment (or mortgage payment, or even his gasoline addiction costs) than have it go into the pockets of some gigantic agrobiz's coffers.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:15 PM on April 12, 2007

I'm gay-- thus I haven't bred new humans--and I ride the bus, so I'm allowed to drink coffee.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 4:51 PM on April 12, 2007

I think that's a bit of a stretch.

I don't think it's a stretch at all. If the $30 stays in my pocket, it is guaranteed that it will not go into a high-footprint vehicle. I don't drive. My typical Sunday grocery excursion involves a leisurely 4.5 km walk down to the SuperStore on Marine Drive and either a walk back or a bus trip back. Then I walk another klick each way to the Chinese grocery store on Victoria Drive. As I said, I'd bet something of real value that my footprint, buying mostly imported food, is lower than almost any 100-miler, and I guarantee it's lower than MacKinnon's, who appears to use a heckuva lot more fossil fuel for travel in a year than I've used in my entire adult life.

And I would rather have my money go into that farmer's car payment (or mortgage payment, or even his gasoline addiction costs) than have it go into the pockets of some gigantic agrobiz's coffers.

That's not at issue: the $30 in my lamb example is either going to the local farmer or staying in my pocket.

I would further disagree that it is preferential for (under some rhetorical construct other than my BC/NZ lamb example) the farmer to buy gas than for BigAgroCorp to make the profit, as I think that personal vehicle ownership has a bigger footprint than a comparable dollar value in agrobiz. Were this not the case, the argument around driving around to get local food would be moot, and I don't think it is.
posted by solid-one-love at 5:02 PM on April 12, 2007

I'm gay-- thus I haven't bred new humans--and I ride the bus, so I'm allowed to drink coffee.

Ha! I'm straight, but impossible to live with and thus haven't bred new humans. I walk and bus, and so I should be allowed to keep my diet cola. ;-)
posted by solid-one-love at 5:03 PM on April 12, 2007

Until quite recently I tended to think little about what I ate, since it wasn't something that those around me seemed to consider important (my family didn't even eat dinners together when I was growing up, which I kind of regret now). Since starting to read the book Full Moon Feast since someone lent it to me a few months ago, though, I've been inspired to think about food a lot more. For me, at least, as I've been rediscovering how much fun food can be, it's not so much about limiting myself to food grown within 100 miles, or organically grown food, or any other rule, but more about just becoming more conscious of what I'm eating--from noticing how it tastes as I eat to finding out about where it came from.

I like going to the farmers' market because it's nice to feel more connected to my food by eating seasonally--it's always exciting to see something appear at the market for the first time in a season, like the strawberries I found this week--and by talking to the farmers who grew it. Also, as Miko said, it's nice to feel like part of a community of people who care about food, which for me has been a new experience and an unexpected benefit of eating more locally.
posted by not me at 5:09 PM on April 12, 2007

solid-one-love: I agree with what you're saying and apologize for using your quotation as a scapegoat for all of the "but then you've got to drive to pick it up" (as if it were any different than groceries) comments. I know that's not the case you were making, your message was just the latest one I read that was related (vaguely) to that topic, which is why I paraphrased the entire questions - it was meant to be amusing, a parody.

Let me digress: After your comment, I had the following idea: I was thinking that if one really was concerned with where every $30 they spent "went" to, they'd have a lot of blood on their hands, furthermore, another thought occurred to me: would it not be humorous, I pondered: there is a man, so desperately concerned that something he might spend his money on would go to an SUV, he never spends any of it at all, but this man is even more paranoid: what else might happen if he went to a farmer's market - perhaps with his ever-growing dementia he would start hallucinating and kill some harmless geese, all because he wanted to a be a gold-star member of the elite 100-mile diet.

Hopefully that terribly-constructed, improperly punctuated, paragraph-long run-on sentence has destroyed any semblence of credibility I may have had, bringing with it any sense of threat I may have previously posed to the logicality of my hypothetical situation.

I just re-read your comment and I didn't realize that you used iceberg lettuce as an example vegetable - that last part of my post was not directed at anyone specifically, I was using iceberg lettuce because it was the worst possible "food" I could imagine buying at Jewel-Osco (I don't know if you have those, but they have terrible produce around here).

posted by nTeleKy at 9:16 PM on April 12, 2007

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