Once in awhile I’ll come across a newspaper article or blog ranting about the Luddites/hippies/crazies/commies who eat local and/or organic, likening the local foods movement to that of a cult. While wrapping themselves in the flag, they rail at us for acting un-American, unpatriotic and downright elitist. Evidently, if we were true patriots, we’d rush right down to Wal-Mart to buy processed food products as well as a new stereo and underwear. Buying into the corporate culture doesn’t make you patriotic, and the recent economic melt-down has demonstrated that it doesn’t help the economy either.
Our global food production system is broken, controlled by a handful of multinational corporations, and entirely dependent on oil. It’s fragile rather than secure, no matter how much money the government pumps into Homeland Security. The food we buy at the store has traveled an average of 1,500 miles,* which means that if the trucks stopped coming for any reason, our communities soon would have no food. I remember the stores’ shelves getting bare quite quickly after a couple of these spring blizzards that shut down I-90. Depending on those trucks is the essence of insecure; local food systems help stabilize food availability.
Nor are those food frequent-flyer miles very efficient, using more calories (energy) than the food being transported has available. For example, shipping one strawberry from California to New York uses 435 calories,** and flying a head of iceberg lettuce from the West Coast to the East Coast uses 36 times the energy contained in the lettuce.^ When you crunch the numbers, it doesn’t add up to a sensible system.
I don’t claim to be Gary Paul Nahban or Barbara Kingsolver, but I’m making an effort, as are many others in South Dakota and around the world. The more local foods we eat, the healthier we are on many levels, as people, a nation, a planet, and an economy. So haters can just keep smugly munching their GM corn products from Wal-Mart and sneering at us hippies/hicks/seditionists with a little dirt under our nails. Thomas Jefferson believed a farmer was the highest profession to which a person could aspire, and I’m pretty sure he was patriot too.
*Deep Economy, Bill McKibben, 2007
**This Organic Life, Joan Dye Gussow, 2001
^Deep Economy, Bill McKibben, 2007