Sunday, July 2, 2017

Local Foods

I get it.  It’s not always easy to find a diversity of local foods within the vastness of corporate agriculture.  Purchasing or gathering locally produced fruits, vegetables, grains, breads, cheese, eggs, seafoods, and meats is also an ethical decision for some of us.  Not all parts of the country can provide local goods and products for these food groups.  Not all local sources are tasty.  What options do we have beyond importation of food from faraway places?

I recently got a bunch of push back when I used the term local to define a locally acquired food product purchased while on a distant trip.  How can it be local when I live in the Midwest and this product is sold on along the coast in the Northwest?  The ensuing debate covered the traditional concepts of so many miles from one’s home to be called local.  I defended myself, but no convincing the traditionalist.  It should not be called local if acquired more than 50 to 100 miles from my house was the final ruling.

Local doesn’t have to be confined by geography, but confuses matters when used on food from far reaches.  Local to me can integrate a variety of means including family operated, organic, natural, fresh, raw, preserved, fair trade, seasonality, locavore, farm to fork, fisher to table, scratch, etcetera.  Local is such a simple term with broad emotions though.  I need to find a good term that allows me to describe this food acquired from a local merchant, farmer, or fisher anywhere, but then transported to my kitchen.  The transportation could be by me or by shipping.

My foodshed map can include more places thus more diversity then if I allow locally acquired and then transported to my home.  Recall, I am chasing flavor, want to support non-corporate farms, and not bound by the exceedance of some artificial diameter from my house.  To me, a family farm in Alaska that grows delicious cabbage without the use of synthetic pesticides can feel just as nice as from the farmer’s market in my home town.  I just need to have a way to get these foods to me since I cannot run around the country to only eat these items in the adjoining towns when they are ripe or ready.
Arguably, there needs to be some mitigation for shipping food over some distance.  Transportation has extra costs, delays can lead to spoilage of raw items, and there are environmental impacts.  Costs are relative.  Bottom line, high flavor typically costs more.  Spoilage is important.  Tasty cabbage that arrives unfit to eat has little value.  However, some local food products are preserved by smoking, pickling, or canning so time is not always critical.  The environmental impacts of the transportation system use more carbon fuels.  This environmental impact can be mitigated by using friends, family, or acquaintances to help transport the locally acquired foods. 

Hey, please pick me up a bunch of Gulf shrimp from the family boat in Cocodrie, Louisiana while you visit the south– as I tell my good friend.   This person is traveling back with or without my fresh shrimp.  Bam, no incremental increase in the use of carbon fuels for this transportation of locally acquired goods.  The social discourse from this transaction builds a network of likeminded individuals.

As you can see, I have a dilemma.  This can be confusing when I use the term local food to include other things.  What then do I call this food that I go out of my way to acquire from a family operated agriculture or aquaculture business and tastes great?   Perhaps inspired in the lyrics a song by Jimmy Buffett about being five o’clock somewhere: its local somewhere.

Please don’t get me started on all this craft fermented malt beverages and distilled spirits.  Up here in my mind, it’s all local.

All the best,

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