Defining Local

When it comes to eating locally, where do you draw the line? How do you define “local?” This is something I still wrestle when with when it comes to how I shop and eat.

What makes something “local”? In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle local meant grown within 100 miles. That works in the fertile hills of Virginia, but what about Nevada? Or Alaska? When it comes to defining “local,” one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.

The more you think about it, the more complex things become. Just pay a visit to the nearest farmers’ market. At Malvern we have our meat, cheese and produce vendors, all of whom provide truly local goods – foods born/raised/grown right here in south eastern PA. All of the meat here at Wyebrook comes from the farm. We raise it, we butcher it, we process it. But what about the guacamole vendor? I don’t know of any locally grown avocados. Or what about the granola vendor? The nuts, brown sugar and oils in her wares certainly don’t come from Chester County. If you want to be really picky, the spices in our sausages aren’t local.

So how do you decide what counts as local and what doesn’t?

In the end I guess it comes down to why you want to eat locally. If your goal is to support small, local businesses and help grow the economy in your region, by all means buy the granola and guacamole. Bailouts won’t fix the economy. Target and Walmart don’t really care about reinvesting in local communities. Growth comes from the ground up, not the top down. So buy local!

But if your concern is more environmental, you need consider the distance that avocado traveled. Sure, it’s turned into guacamole here in Chester County and you are supporting a local business, but that doesn’t mean it has a small carbon footprint. Still, if I am going to eat guacamole, I’d rather get it from the farmer’s market than some national brand at the grocery store.

Then there is the GMO issue. Is it better to buy local products made with GMO ingredients or organic products from national companies? I can get local granola, but most use GMO oils and butters. Or I can buy the organic product that has a carbon footprint equal to that of any General Mills cereal. Assuming I’m too lazy to make my own granola (which I usually am), which is the better option? Or should I just give up on granola altogether?

I don’t have all the answers on this and am still working out what “local” means to me. I’m not ready to give up coffee or coconut oil or bananas simply because I live in a temperate region rather than a tropical one. I do my best to avoid GMOs, but still waver when it comes to the GMO vs. local debate. There’s just so much to think about. When did eating become so complicated?

3 thoughts on “Defining Local

  1. This is a great post, with timely questions. Perhaps we need to think about more than one dimension. Local is great, ecologically sound, humanely raised, and socially just are also important considerations. In Iowa we produce more eggs than any other state, and few people live very far from a confined animal feeding operation. A CAFO egg is local, but probably flunks the test on most of those other considerations. Btw, I live less than 15 miles from a General Mills plant where they make Cheerios, so that is local, but really, it isn’t.

  2. A wonderfully thoughtful post. These are great questions to ask of ourselves. For me, it is a combination of all of these but when it comes down to it, I support the local initiative because I like knowing, seeing, and being a part of where my food comes from. On the other side, eating local to me can also mean eating thoughtful which means thinking about what I am putting in my and my families mouth. That includes supporting the non-GMO cause as well. At the end of the day, I think it is the combination of local (nearby) and thoughtful that is how I would aspire to eat. Thank you for writing this because even as I write my comment, I am evaluating how and I why I eat the way I do:)

  3. Pingback: DEFINING LOCAL | Wyebrook FarmWyebrook Farm

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