In addition to our work with the Library, Alex and I have been gathering research about local food systems. With the ramp up in media coverage of the “local food movement,” we have found that it is very easy to get caught in a position of advocacy and assumption making, rather than stepping back and understanding the real perspectives from all sides of the argument. To help in this research, we are reading a book called: “The Locavore’s Dilema: In Praise of the 10,000-mile Diet” by Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu. Throughout the book, the authors directly address the main beliefs of “local food” activists, and argue that the local food movement “is ‘at best, a marketing fad that frequently and severely distorts the environmental impacts of agricultural production.’ At worst, it constitutes ‘a dangerous distraction from the very real and serious issues that affect energy consumption, the environmental impact of modern food production, and the affordability of food’ (xxiv). Clearly presenting an ‘against the grain’ argument, we hope this book helps to open our eyes to areas that we need to address with more on-the-ground research.
I have just started reading, but here are some of the most interesting quotes I have gathered so far:
One of the assumptions implicit in all this local food stuff is that we farmers are dying to make a connection with our customers. In many cases, nothing could be further from the truth. All we want is to sell corn and be left alone (xvii, Blake Hurst).
Indeed, more trade and ever improving technologies remain to this day the only proven ways to lift large numbers of people out of rural poverty and malnutrition (xxvi).
There is, however, still no agreement on the true meaning of ‘local food’ (or ‘foodshed’ or ‘regional food system’) among its various proponents (5).
In fact, if modern-day activists were to cling to any consistent notion of ‘local’ food, a truly ‘made in the USA’ agriculture diet would be limited to turkeys, some farmed native fish and shellfish (including Atlantic salmon and Brook trout), sunflowers, blueberries, cranberries, Jerusalem artichokes, and some varieties of squash (6).
More to come as I get deeper into the book!