» Local is Just Better #

Paul R. Brown @ 2008-07-26

Via Bob's FoodJaunt social portal (at least that's what I'd call it) and younger sister to Greenthumbr, I found an NYT article (compare article at SFGate) about a gardener-for-hire who will plant and tend a garden in your yard, and the idea of a decentralized urban farm is compelling.

One paragraph in the NYT article misses the point:

Although a completely local diet is out of reach for even the most dedicated, the shift toward it is being driven by the increasingly popular view that fast food is the enemy and that local food tastes better. Depending on the season, local produce can cost an additional $1 a pound or more. But long-distance food, with its attendant petroleum consumption and cheap wages, is harming the planet and does nothing to help build communities, locavores believe.

Local isn't just better for the planet. Local is just better.

For example, one facet of better is fresher. The lettuce we buy at the local farmer's market (usually from "Let Us Farm") travels the 100-ish miles (Google Maps routing says 99.8 miles — "local" it is!) from the field to my fridge in under 24 hours if not under eight hours, and it stays edible for a week or more. For comparison, a smaller head of butter lettuce from Whole Foods, entombed in its keep sake plastic clamshell, keeps at most a few days once brought home from the store just because of the additional handling and time elapsed. Moreover, the local lettuce costs less. When presented with the apples-to-apples comparison, even the crassest consumer would choose the local option.

As energy costs increase, decentralized production and distribution should result in lower prices, higher quality, and more variety. The irresistible force of fundamental economic self-interest is going to drive change in our food supply chain, not something more noble or farsighted. That's a good thing, too, because relatively few people have a sense of duty to the collective good, but everyone has a wallet.


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