Friday, April 24, 2009

Response to "The Rise of the 'Locavore'."

After reading the article, The Rise of the ‘Locavore’, I was feeling pretty optimistic about a shift in our current eating habits as a nation. The fact that an article even exists about this topic shows that there are many people who are starting to realize the benefits of eating locally. As a matter of fact, ‘locavore’ was named the New American Oxford Dictionary word of the year in 2007. The article acknowledged the downsides to eating organic, such as the fossil fuel emissions during transport and the up rise of organic brands being purchased by large corporations. The public may be realizing that though organic is healthier than eating conventionally produced foods, it is not very sustainable. The article states however, that most local small farms have adapted to organic techniques and therefore provide food that is not only healthy for your body, but the environment as well. I was very surprised when I read about the several colleges who are making efforts to supply food in their dining halls that is state produced and grown within 150 miles of their location. This seems like a really big thing when you think of all the college campuses around the nation and just how much food they need in order to feed students. I wonder, however, it is that eating locally is becoming more mainstream, and if that is a good thing or not? The article talked about the growing percentage of large corporations such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, and Best Buy investing in locally grown foods and selling them on shelves to customers. I can’t help but wonder about the logic going into that decision. It seems like a bad idea to me. Wal-Mart is famous for driving local shops out of business because their products are sold for so much less money. How much does Wal-Mart benefit from selling these local foods in comparison with the profit gained by the farmers themselves? I almost feel like in order to make a wise switch at all, customers need to stop going to Wal-Mart altogether and buy these local foods solely at farmers markets, local co-ops or through CSA’s. Wal-Mart has also been accused of selling “local” foods that really aren’t so local after all. In an article by Jenny O’Mara from National Public Radio, a farmer named Patrick Hoover who lives near Sacramento, CA, told the writer that he travels 50 miles to their nearest farmers market and that’s it. Any further would not be so local to the ‘locavores’ in their definition. Patrick Hoover was also quoted in the article saying, "The quality, I have. I don't do any markets like that, just because my stuff is picked ripe, and the only shelf I want it on is between here and the customer at home, and sitting in any retail store is just not good for my produce." Sure makes sense to me. Wal-Mart doesn’t necessarily seem like a reliable company in making sure the food stays as fresh as possible on their shelves.
There is another side, also in the article was a quote from someone saying "We're kind of on a tight budget right now, It's not really [of] that great importance to us. We just buy what's cheap." So I guess the next step in the puzzle in finding out how we can make buying locally a reality for those not so well off. For the mean time, I found a list of ten steps to make the transition in your household from eating foods that have been shipped long distances (why isn’t there a word for that?) and becoming a ‘locavore.’
1) Visit a farmer’s market
2) Lobby your supermarket
3) Chose five foods in your house that you can buy locally
4) Find a local CSA and sign up
5) Preserve a local food for the winter
6) Find out what restaurants in your area support local farmers
7) Host a local Thanksgiving
8) Buy from local vendors
9) Ask about origins
10) Visit a farm

This list was written by Jennifer Maiser, editor of the Eat Local Challenge website.

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