Judith Klinger
January 27, 2015

Raise your hand if you know why we should eat local.

“It’s good for the planet!” shouts the mother who drives her kids around in an SUV so they can go pick strawberries at the nearby farm.

“Puh-leeze! It’s incredibly obvious.” shrugs the bearded hipster who just picked up this week's CSA box of winter root vegetables and is secretly thinking, “If I have to eat beets again I will blow my brains out.”

“I have to have my coffee in the morning.” say I, knowing full well there are no coffee plantations in lower Manhattan. I consider myself pragmatic.

When we are in Italy, we live local. Except for coffee, we have local access to some of the  world’s best food and olive oil. Sounds like food paradise, right? Yes, but also food monotony dictated by the seasons. When asparagus is in, you eat a lot of asparagus. Then the blasted fava beans come in and kitchen prep time doubles and my fingers are permanently stained black. In the fiery heat of August, I’ll be in my sauna-kitchen, with multiple pots of boiling water,  bottling jars of tomatoes from our garden. If you don't use them, you lose them. So, if doesn't matter if you are not in the mood, if it's too hot, if you have other stuff to do, you are a slave to the tomato harvest.  Eating Local

I’m not complaining, this is reality, and frankly, how many of you are ready to give up the incredible variety and independence that we have in most urban centers?

Is it so wrong to ship produce?

Is the cost of fuel for shipping the only cost to look at? The short answer is no. The long, incredibly complex answer is something called the LCA or Life Cycle Assessment.Fossil Fuel Usage

In this case the LCA is looking at fossil fuel consumption. If you were an analyst where would you concentrate your efforts on reducing fossil fuel consumption? Processing and production and then home prep are the two biggest culprits. Actual transport usage is only 11% of the total consumption. I’m not saying 11% doesn’t matter, but I am saying we need to be open to the idea that efficiency trumps local.

So, why do we eat local?

Think of your diet as a portfolio; eating local is one important asset of a balanced portfolio. Look at the full energy cycle to try and understand that sometimes the advantage of growing something where it is well suited to be grown will outweigh just looking at fuel miles.

The real reason to support the locavore movement is simple: it connects you to your area, to the seasons, to the people that produce your food, to your community. And that, as they say, is priceless.

Further Reading:

Just Food, by James E. McWilliams



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