ChewsWise Blog

ChewsWise Blog

The Limits of Local

I had a spirited discussion on Seattle's NPR affiliate, KUOW, on the local v. organic debate, but it wasn't much of a debate, since the highest standard everyone seemed to prefer was local AND organic. The chef and author Deborah Madison had a thoughtful piece on Culinate reaching the same conclusion.

The point I tried to make is that local alone is not sufficient. Buying within a certain radius of one's house could mean purchasing from Smithfield Farm if you're in North Carolina, and that might not be what locavores have in mind.

The problem with local is that distance gets the major emphasis, rather than environmental impact, the way the food is produced, or the myriad other issues to consider in reaching a higher food standard. Organic has been criticized because it's all about the method (rather than distance or social justice), but I expect local too will find itself facing similar criticisms. Take note that among the most active opponents to chemical and intensive animal farming are neighbors who live nearby the fields and manure ponds. They don't want this in their backyard, yet it's from a local farm. ...Oh wait, that's not what you mean by local. And Wal-Mart wasn't what organic was supposed to be either.

- Samuel Fromartz