J500 Media and the Environment

Local: It’s all the local rage. Locally. by bendcohen

Local agriculture and business are reaching new levels of popularity right now.  Part of the modern sustainability movement is, for a variety of reasons, increasing consumption of local products.  Part of this has to do with reducing the carbon footprint of the agriculture industry, by increasing demand for items that do not have to travel as far to be sold.  Economically, it also supports the efforts of smaller farms and merchants, reducing the stranglehold that large producers and distributors have on the food industry.  And from a health perspective, foods produced with a smaller market in line do not typically have the horrendous amount of preservatives, growth hormones, and other strange things that foods produced for a massive distribution do.

The only major knock against local foods that I give any credence is that they are popular now because it is trendy.  You sound so much healthier and more conscious of the shady practices of major food producing companies, and some people will find that out and use it to feel cool.  That being said, this is one of those cases where I have to say “So what?”

Like any trend, the cultural shift in the favor of local foods (one which is still taking place, slowly but surely), can be exploited not just by those demanding to be cool at all times, but by business interests who know that those same people often have a lot of extra money to shill out for things with words like “local” and “organic” plastered on the packaging.

Also, by whatever diabolical genius grew this guy.

Regardless of the motivations some people have in supporting local food producers, and who finds the easiest way to make a buck off of them, the truths about locally-grown and distributed foods, the benefits mentioned earlier stand.  Economic uncertainty pervades our culture, so knowing that we can help our neighbors succeed is comforting.  Obesity is the great new American stereotype, so finding foods that don’t contribute to that is always exciting.  And then there are people like the contributors to Lawrence’s own Localvores blog whose passion for local food production just makes me feel bad for passing it over sometimes.

So for those reasons, I hold back the cynicism.  Time will tell how much this effects our health, economy, and indeed American culture in the long run.  In the short term, the trend really can’t hurt too much.


5 Comments so far
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There is also some very interesting research in the Tohono Oodham nation in Arizona. Through their own community supported agriculture project, they’ve been able to reintroduce ample quantities of native foods which have in turn, lowered diabetes rates.

Comment by Tammy McLeod

Actually, sometimes it can be cheaper to eat local (because of the missing fuel costs), so it isn’t just “people who can shell out money” who can afford to eat local. I am just curious, why do you think we need to wait for “time to tell” if this trend is good or not. -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev

That’s a great find, Tammy. Few people, if any, doubt anymore that there is a serious problem with obesity and all of its side-effects in America right now, and some empirical proof that a heavier emphasis on organic/locally grown foods can fight that could really resonate. -Ben C.

Comment by bendcohen

Kristina, I advise waiting and observing because, to put it simply, I am extremely cynical about the shelf-life of anything that strikes me as “the cool new thing to do”. And for as many people as there are like the DCFPC, there are those (and I am friends with many) who simply see supporting local agribusiness as that same “cool new thing”. You and I are well aware of the benefits of eating local, but we can only speculate on the matter of its continued cultural ascent. -Ben C.

Comment by bendcohen

I guess my view is that eating local is not a “cool new thing” but the way that everything was except for a few decades from the 1950s through now. I think the way we have been doing things in our lives and the lives of our parents will be seen as “the trend that screwed everything up.” -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev

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