Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Making the Case for Local...

Sometimes I come to work in the morning and have no idea what I'm doing.

Ok, ok, so that's a bit of an exaggeration -- but lately I'm finding more and more that the parameters surrounding local foods are getting a little fuzzy.  With no clear or standardized definition, no one agency to oversee or control it, the world of "local" is a nebulous one, marked as much by emotion and opinion as by science, rules and mileages.

I'm not saying this flexibility is necessarily a bad thing, but it has allowed "local" to be co-opted by nearly everyone, each tweaking the word just enough to fit within their means.  Even Hellmann's Mayonnaise is in on it.  But I digress (and plus, I'll have more on that later).

The New Oxford American Dictionary, which honored "locavore" as its word of the year in 2007, is equally as non-committal, defining the term as "a person who seeks out locally produced food."  Of course, that begs the question, what does "locally produced food" mean?  Seriously folks, it's like going after a moving target for 40 hours a week.

And, even though we at Local Food Hub have our own ideas and guidelines about what we consider local, the world does not always follow our rules, no matter how much we insist.   :)
So what's a girl to do?  Well, in this case, I'm asking you.  If you're reading this, it means you probably have some interest in "local" food, farming, agriculture (or you just Googled "asparagus berry").  I'm interested in what you have to say.

Here's what I'd like to know:
  1. How do you define "local?"  Is it a 60-mile radius from your home?  1000-mile?  State-wide?  Region-wide?  Does it vary depending on the product?

  2. How strict are you?  Do you abstain from tomatoes in winter, skip citrus and olives and coffee always, or do you make exceptions for certain things?

  3. If you do pay attention to what's local, why?  Carbon footprint?  Economic impact?  Community support?  Food safety?  Something else?

Feel free to leave a comment here, on Facebook, or Twitter, or send me an email: emily [at] localfoodhub.org.    I'll chime in later with Local Food Hub's thoughts (and maybe highlight some of yours, too).  Looking forward to hearing what you have to say!


  1. 1. I have two definitions of local, which basically break down to "near local" and "Virginia local." The first is any food I can get that was grown/produced in Albemarle or any county touching it and the second is any food grown/produced in Virginia.

    2. My family does not eat grapes, tomatoes, berries, asparagus, melons, and a few other odds and ends out of season, no matter how much we crave it. We make a few exceptions -- broccoli, lettuce, carrots, apples, and pears -- but our rules are that they must be grown in the U.S. As for citrus, we buy U.S.-grown oranges, kiwi, and pineapple and nothing from other continents.

    3. We pay attention to local foods for environmental reasons, as well as to support our local farmers and other food producers.

  2. 1. For me, local means the local bio-region, an extent of some 80km north-south and about 150km east-west. I live on a plateau.
    2. I try to eat as much as possible from my garden. I also buy food at the farmers' market, which is mostly growers within about 50km, and a few items from the supermarket. For those items I try to get Australian produce from Australian companies. I will usually forego it if it's not Australian. I don't sweat on it though. I follow the 80/80 guideline - 80% right 80% of the time.
    3. Support local economy and reduce carbon footprint. It's also fresher, usually.

  3. Jen, Ray, thanks for sharing your "philosophies." It's impressive to see folks not only thinking about these things, but actually acting on them. YAY!