What is Local Food? Defining Local Food

The Local Food Movement

Local Food: What is Local?

Local Food: What is Local?

If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve heard the term “local food” bandied around a lot lately. Maybe you heard it on the news in a discussion about sustainable agriculture, or in a debate between about whether “local or organic” is better for the environment.

Maybe you saw that episode of Portlandia where Fred and Carrie interrogate their waitress about the origin of the chicken used in the restaurant, eventually asking her to hold their table while they drive 30 miles to the farm its sourced from (and end up joining the polygamist cult that runs it).

Okay, so that’s a little extreme, but there is an increasing popular movement that’s pushing for buying and eating locally grown food. So what exactly does locally grown mean?

Defining Local: How Local is Local?

Whereas “organic food” has come to have definitive, legal requirements and a standardized certification process (USDA Organic Certification), local food remains a relatively ambiguous term. Does local mean that it was grown in your backyard? In the same county? Within a 50 mile radius of the market?

That has yet to be determined, but the key idea is that the further food travels from its origin, the worse it is for the environment and for the local economy.

This is largely because (1) greenhouse gases are emitted in the shipping process, contributing to climate change and pollution, and (2) local farms don’t see any of the money that’s used to purchase goods from distant farms, creating an import economy that disadvantages the local community. Buying locally is a way to help address these issues and make the food industry more sustainable.

Farmers Markets Offer a Variety of Local Foods

Farmers Markets Offer a Variety of Local Foods

Farmers Markets Offer a Variety of Local Foods

Of course, there are certain products that simply aren’t available locally–or aren’t available locally during certain seasons. However, you might be surprised by the range of foods that are grown in your community. A good way to find out is to visit a local farmers market. You can locate many of them through the Local Harvest website.

Or, look into buying into a farm share or CSA (community-supported-agriculture network). Many offer a monthly or bi-monthly subscription service where they provide you with an assortment of produce, meats or other food products cheaply, locally, and much fresher than what you can find in a supermarket.

[photocredit: Eventbrite; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle]

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