The term “local food” is certainly not an unfamiliar one. I hear a lot of talk these days about eating locally. And I know several people who try to eat locally whenever possible for a number of good reasons.
We live in an age of global markets, with most of us buying our food from chain supermarkets, convenient stores and fast-food outlets. We seldom think about where our food comes from or how it was grown or processed.
Before globalization, the foods people ate were all local and seasonal. Today the food we eat is often grown on large industrial farms before being shipped across the country or from overseas to huge distribution centers where it is sorted, packaged and processed before it is trucked to retailers. Of course, this means that a remarkable diversity of food is available all year around for consumers who can afford it.
Unfortunately, the environmental consequences of food globalization, such as the ecological impacts that result from large-scale production of cropping food in monocultures with intensive use of pesticides and the air pollution resulting from expanded mechanization and transportation, aren’t so obvious. Nor are the impacts food globalization has on our health (31.8 percent of American adults are now considered clinically obese) and local communities, where family farms and dollars that might otherwise remain in the area have been lost.
I’ve heard people who appreciate food that is grown locally refer to themselves as locavores, a term that originated in 2005 in an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle. But the definition of “local” is often vague. Some people consider food from the Albany and Syracuse regions or from Vermont local.
Their concerns have more to do with sustainability than proximity to home. They buy from sellers they know or have a relationship with or they buy products from companies they know are producing products in sustainable ways.