Sunday, July 24, 2005

Eating ONLY Local?


There has been a lot of hullaballoo about eating local as of late. It's a topic that has been written about in Gourmet magazine, in the San Francisco Chronicle, in blog after blog and countless other places I'm sure. There is even a group called the Locavores dedicated to this way of thinking. But I don't agree with it.

Don't get me wrong. I believe in supporting local producers. I believe in sustainable agriculture, in family farms and in more organic choices. I even think as an experiment it is interesting to find out what really is produced locally. But, I don't believe in limiting one's self to eating local and will not be participating in this experiment. Why?

Here are my top five reasons:

1. It's not sustainable, meaning it does not support local family farms in a sustainable way. According to Patrick Martin, past Director of Slow Foods USA "Small family farms are essential to guaranteeing the diversity and safety of our food supply." But we need to "think locally, but ship nationally" for regional products that might disappear unless they are raised in much larger numbers.

For example, some heirloom varieties of American livestock are on the brink of extinction because there are no longer buyers for them in an agribusiness-dominated market, and farmer's markets in urban areas only accept local producers. "They are important to our survival," notes Martin. "As the Irish potato famine demonstrated, depending on one variety of livestock or produce can be disastrous."

2. I refuse to believe that globalization is completely a bad thing. I'm thank my lucky stars that I live in a time and place where I can eat French chocolate, Italian Parmigiano Reggiano, Indian Darjeeling tea and New Zealand lamb. I know it means supporting shippers and retailers, and I'm willing to pay for that. I don't think shippers or retailers are less valid people than farmers.

3. Elitist. Really, who has the time and money to do this? Is this something an average middle class, never mind working class person could even entertain? I think not.To me it feels more like politically correct behavior gone to an extreme that will appeal primarily to upper middle class liberal minded folks. I might be wrong here, but I don't think so.

4. Access. What happens to people not living in agriculturally rich environments? What are they supposed to eat? What if they don't have a garden or access to a farmers market? It's only in the last year that the citizens of Hunter's Point in San Francisco got a local farmers market and it operates only four hours a week.

5. Economics. I hate to apologize for capitalism but it is the system we live under. Sort of anyway. I think that what works about capitalism, is letting the market decide. And I rather prefer Plugra butter to locally produced Straus butter. I don't want to apologize for that. I hope market forces encourage Straus to make both a better and more affordable butter, like Plugra does.

So there you have it. I don't rant very often at Cooking with Amy and so I thank you for indulging me. I also wish anyone participating in this effort good luck. If you would like to participate in the month long effort this August, please visit the Eat Local Challenge here.