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?