Locally Grown Food
May 30, 2010
The consumer food movement has made terms like; fresh, natural, and organic everyday words. Now this same movement has brought a new word to the American lexicon; “Locavore.” In 2007, it was picked as the word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary. By definition it means someone who prefers locally grown foods to foods commercially produced. The natural and organic food movements, always conscientious of food quality and environmental impact, have transitioned largely to embracing locally grown produce. This evolution is driven by a growing dissatisfaction with the agricultural establishment and current food production methods. Although in conflict with commercial agriculture; the locally grown food paradigm uses sustainable agricultural methods, protects the environment, and supports local economies. Tracing its origins back to the natural and organic food movements, local food producers regularly use ecological farming techniques developed through the years. Sustainable agriculture employs methods of food production which are healthy, not harmful, or destructive to the environment. This concept is an alternative to the current global industrialization of agriculture. The sustainable agriculture model includes local farming, local distribution, supports the local economy, and offers consumer’s healthier and better tasting food because it is normally consumed shortly after harvest. Locally grown foods generally taste better than commercial produce. They are usually picked within a day or two after ripening: are still fresh, crisp, and full of flavor. Besides taste, local food is healthier. Foods have their highest levels of nutrients when they are freshly picked and are eaten soon after harvest. Local farmers’ also provide customers a wider variety of foods than are made available by industrial agriculture. Commercial farming selects crops that are able to endure modern harvesting equipment, simultaneously ripened, and are tough enough to withstand packing and shipping. Few crops meet the requirements of large scale commercial agriculture; so selection and variety are limited. In contrast local farmers’ produce a wider variety of crops that offer consumers produce that are more seasonal and possess distinctive flavors. This diversity of fruits and vegetables also preserves genetic diversity. Many contain genetic material dating back hundreds or possibly thousands of years. These genes are a product of human selection over generations and provide the variety necessary to thrive through climate changes. Proponents of sustainable farming methods argue that current farming practices are destroying the ecosystem. The Institute of Science in Society (2005) stated, “In too many food production regions of the world, conventional farming practices have severely depleted the underground water to the point where rivers and lakes have dried out, topsoil has been eroded away, and wild life decimated.” A basic principle and philosophy of local food producers, like organic farmers, is to preserve the environment. To that end farmers use crop rotation strategies, mulching, biological pest control, and cultivation techniques that maintain soil productivity. Moreover, the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are either entirely eliminated or severely restricted; as are livestock hormones and antibiotics. These methods enrich the soil while offering consumers healthier food alternatives. Another major key to maintaining a sustainable agricultural system is the reduction of “food miles.” The term refers to the miles food must travel from harvest to the table. The produce in supermarkets advertised as “fresh” can be weeks old; been picked green, dipped in wax, or treated with chemicals. Then the produce is shipped to processing centers and distribution locations around the country. A frequently cited statistic estimates that food travels 1,500 miles...
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