Thursday, May 13, 2010

What Does Buying Local Mean?

On Earth Day, but also throughout the year, we hear how buying food from local growers would help reduce transportation costs and therefore cut down on greenhouse emissions.

Does this mean foregoing those grapes from Chile or those oranges from South Africa, or eliminating bananas from our diet altogether?  (Quick question: Which state in the mainland U.S. grows bananas?)  Or it could mean buying lettuce from your regional cooperative instead of the California varieties offered by your big box stores.

[The fair trade folks give us another alternative.  If you're going to purchase food that is transported a long distance, at least practice economic justice and buy "fair trade" products.  The other day I discovered that one local store offers fair trade bananas.  But that's another discussion].

For now, I would like to focus on the buying local aspect. There is a great article about this topic in Choices: The Magazine of Food, Farm and Resource Issues The piece, written by Michael S. Hand and Stephen Martinez, examines the different definitions and descriptions for buying local.  (Thanks to JustFaith for recommending the piece).

Here is an excerpt from the article
Many definitions use political boundaries or geographical distance to identify local products, while others focus on how food is produced and distributed. Underlying these definitions is the assumption that local foods can satisfy a set of demands—be they related to quality and freshness, social or environmental sustainability, or economic well being. Examining the different local definitions can help uncover why the term has come to enjoy such broad use, and what individuals, communities, and policymakers hope to achieve by supporting local foods.
Read full article

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