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Local-food blasphemy?

vastleft's picture

Via Neural Gourmet's twitter feed, one finds a post that's skeptical about the benefits of local food-growing.

Naturally, so to speak, the most-local form of growing is growing your own food, a most auspicious pursuit. Though if/when survival comes down to that, I'm a dead man.

Anyone who knows anything about growing and/or economics want to weigh in on whether the author of that post should get an olive branch or rotten tomatoes?

No votes yet


Submitted by lambert on

and I'm not sure I have an immediate answer. I do wonder, though, what happens to that model if and when the price of food becomes prohibitive. It also seems to connect the ideas that I vaguely recall Krugman has had on trade and specialization...

Salmo's picture
Submitted by Salmo on

When I want eggs, I stop by Kathy's house about a 1/4 mile down the street. A couple of produce stands are on the roadside within a few miles. Mike produces poultry. Beef and pork come from a couple of miles away too, and we buy in bulk. Sometimes I buy wood from some of them, sometimes I sell it. I think that is what is meant by local food. Why would anyone go to the trouble of modeling that?

Now, modeling the economics of zucchini in August could win someone some serious academic credibility.

Submitted by Anne on

never get to the point where they rot - we eat them long before that happens! - I wouldn't have any rotten ones to throw, and I would never waste good food by throwing it anyway, so...

I live in a semi-rural to rural area; there are a lot of farms and produce stands, and just-picked food to take advantage of - food that puts what we find in the stores to shame (although there has been an effort on the part of the local chains to buy local produce, which is a step in the right direction).

I will continue to grow and to buy locally-grown food because (1) I like it, (2) I like contributing to the local economy and (3) because I like knowing where my food comes from, what was or was not sprayed on it, or what it was fed.

And it tastes like real food. Imagine that.

adrena's picture
Submitted by adrena on

The stuff that grows in the bush, the forest, and/or the desert near your home town.

Last year an 83 year old woman led me through the bush that bordered her backyard. We returned with a variety of wild edible plants - enough to make a salad for four.

Would you be able to forage for food in the wild or is this a lost art?

How to Forage: Ways to Determine What Wild Plants are Safe to Eat with more good links provided in a comment.

Although, be wary of overharvesting wild plants - some of them, like wild garlic and fiddleheads, take many years to recover from an overzealous harvester.

Salmo's picture
Submitted by Salmo on

We have hundreds of acres of fiddleheads, but but there are a few spots that get hit heavily every year. One such is always the last place where they emerge (shaded, on the north slope). Even there, the ferns show no diminution in abundance. I suspect that there is a limit, as you suggest, but it must be level of harvest that would be achieved by commercial pickers.

adrena's picture
Submitted by adrena on

From Wiki - Though available regionally in some supermarkets and restaurants, fiddleheads aren't cultivated and are available only seasonally. In rural areas, fiddleheads are harvested by individuals in early spring. When picking fiddleheads, three tops per plant is the recommended harvest. Each plant produces seven tops that turn into fronds; over-picking will kill the plant. Maintaining sustainable harvesting methods is important in the propagation of any non-farmed food species.

Submitted by Elliott Lake on

Both about it being not the most efficient method, and about farmers markets being about more than cheapest means of local food. Obviously the cheapest means is to grow it yourself, and obviously prices at farmers markets aren't & can't be the cheapest (no economies of scale such as are possible with agribusiness). But also obviously farmers markets are not only about local food but also visiting with your neighbors, promoting local small business, local artists & crafters, a place for happy, healthy entertaining days out, and enjoying a closer contact with nature, food, gardening and your neighbors. Adding in a price on that is impossible, I suppose, but if you added how much you'd have to charge to add those amenities to the grocery store, you'd have an idea of why mercantilism is not the best way to value life.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Looking at things through the most, as we used to say, holistic frame is a wonderful, lost art.

Once upon a time, progressives were really interested in framing....

quinhon's picture
Submitted by quinhon on

Soak soil for 80 years in increasingly complex chemicals.

Plant food in soil with no change.

Sell as organic.

Yeah, right, wanna buy some of the fish caught in Lake Michigan? Gee, few chemicals actually breakdown and none disappear. But it is organic.

I have incredibly complex and vicious chemical allergies. People, buy the crap off the shelf in the big store, it is not one whit more dangerous than "organic." I can't spend time in your chemical drenched society. After 5 days of chemicals and having to drink distilled water, your country just isn't worth it. I live in a desert. There is little food selection, but it was in the farm yesterday and it is in me today, works just fine where they can't afford the chemicals.

Been a big debate among the farmers about genetically modified seeds. They are isolated but informed. Vote was in favor of burning crops planted from GM seeds, period. No court cases, no lawyers, just burn it. See some people do want to live and have safe food, just not the citified organic people.