We see a lot of advertisement for local products on a positive note, and the idea that local products are better seems to agree with many people. Many people are, however, unaware that something local isn’t always or necessarily better.
The Local Foods Dilemma – A Food System Slightly Misunderstood
What is to you local food? Is it food produced within a short distance from your home? And how short a distance is it? Also, do you think local food is sustainable food?
While some people do indeed describe the local food as food produced within, say, a hundred miles from their home and food that is indeed sustainable, to other people local means produced in their state and not necessarily sustainable.
Both the first and the latter are true: local could mean something made as close to your home as your neighbor’s backyard and as further away as the state line because there are no actual regulations to define how close or far away is local. Moreover, and probably even more important than distance, is that local food isn’t necessarily sustainable.
When Local Isn’t Sustainable at All
We have come to associate local food with fresh and healthy, many people also being completely sure that everything produced locally is also environmentally friendly and follows responsible practices.
But because no real or regulated consensus exists, in regards to neither geographic distance nor production practices, you could be purchasing local, for example from a nearby factory farm, but definitely unsustainable.
The ambiguity of the term “local” and the fact that there are no regulated terms for local food encourages producers and sellers to market products in their favor even when what they’re selling isn’t quite as sustainable as implied.
The Real Local Food Comes Primarily From Sustainable Family Farms
The advantage of living in more rural areas is that people here have a better chance of buying their food and local products directly from producing farms or at local farmers’ markets, which are the best options and sometimes the only places to source real local and sustainable foods.
Smaller farms depend a lot on customers living nearby and on selling to consumers at farmers’ markets, although some can also have arrangements with grocery stores and supermarkets situated in their proximity, which makes it easier for more people to buy local products. This is called direct to retail and is a program through which farms deliver their products directly to foodservices and retail, cutting the middleman.
Many restaurants are sourcing from sustainable farms nowadays and choose to cook with local ingredients, thus helping the market and promoting sustainability. In some cases, because of delivery issues and seasonality of products, some restaurants even begin growing their own food, which gives them more control over the business and an overall more satisfactory experience.
People often find it important to get to know growers, especially when buying directly from them. They feel more confident when seeing production processes with their own eyes and reassured that the welfare of animals is respected.