I’m sitting here eating some cherries, even though it’s the middle of the winter. The cherries came from Chile, and they are delicious. Plus, there seem to be fewer bad ones in the bunch than is true during the summer cherry season. They are a little more expensive, but not prohibitively so. Tell me, please, why I should give up this pleasure.
Becoming a hard-core locavore would mean giving up a lot of foods that I like, simply because they aren’t grown here. Oranges, bananas, pineapples, and other tropical fruits would never be sold here, if the hard-core locavores had their way. This seems to be a conspiracy by coastal people to make the lives of us Midwesterners harder. On the other hand, maybe not, since it would mean the end of a lot of imported cheeses, wines and so on that they enjoy.
In addition, the reasons generally given for being a locavore don’t persuade me. This site, for example, gives ten reasons for eating local foods, none of which seems especially compelling to me. The first one given, that it will help the local economy, I’ll leave to the economists.
The second and third reasons, that locally produced food is fresher and tastes better, I’ve already answered above in connection with the cherries. They are fresh and taste great.
The fourth reason, that they have longer to ripen and will therefore be better. Maybe.
The fifth reason, that eating local is better for air quality and pollution than eating organic, doesn’t apply to me in the narrow sense since I don’t eat organic anyway. In the broader sense, it is about helping the environment, but I am not an environmentalist. As I’ve made plain on this blog, the environmentalists don’t really care about poor people, and if I had to choose between helping the environment and helping poor people, I’d choose the latter.
The sixth reason, that buying local food keeps us in touch with the seasons, is absurd. It’s winter here in central Ohio, and there is no escaping it. I wish I could be out of touch with winter, but that is impossible.
The seventh reason, that chatting with local farmers makes for wonderful stories, isn’t much of a reason.
The eighth reason, that eating locally protects us from bio-terrorism because there is less chance for contamination, may be true enough, but is not compelling enough for me to give up those cherries.
The ninth reason, that it means more variety, is wholly misleading. The author means that there will be more variety among the foods grown locally. What the author doesn’t say is that there will be less variety in one’s diet because one will have to give up food that isn’t grown locally.
The tenth reason, that it will keep farmers on their farms and thus prevent irresponsible development, depends on believing that there is responsible and irresponsible development, something which I don’t accept. If someone wants to offer a farmer a lot of money for their farmland so they can develop it, isn’t it up to the farmer and not some busybody outsiders to make that decision? I’ve never lived on a farm, but my father grew up on one, and he told me how hard and dangerous it was. I’m sure there are farmers who like it and want to stay with it, but there may be others who would jump at the chance to leave it and make a lot of money in one fell swoop. By the way, my father knew what he was talking about when he said that farming was dangerous; he himself lost an eye at age eighteen in a farming accident.
Also, why would anyone in farming want to restrict their market just to the locals? This just makes it more likely that the farmer will be poorer than otherwise, which would mean that he or she would jump at the chance to get rich when a developer came along. In addition, why refuse to eat tropical fruits? How is that helping the workers in those industries? They are probably poorly paid, but being poorly paid is generally better than not being paid at all, which is what will happen if demand for their product falls.
Plus, if we are going to restrict the foods we buy to those locally grown, why not restrict all products bought to those locally produced? We run into big problems here, of course, for lots of the products we use are not locally produced. And if one adds that they should use materials found locally, we will be back to using horses and buggies. Bicycles, for example, which I suspect that locavores love, require materials from distant parts of the earth, and it’s just not possible to make one using local materials, and even if we waive that restriction, it’s not likely that a bicycle manufacturer exists nearby.
We seem to be back at Mao’s idea of backyard steel furnaces in his Great Leap Forward.
The best reason is one that isn’t given, probably because the author is so far from sharing my values. It is that eating local foods means less gas consumed, which means less money going to terrorists or their supporters from the Middle East. However, there are better ways of dealing with that situation, like drilling for as much oil as we can find here in the U.S., which would not only lower the price of our gas, but also provide more jobs for our blue-collar workers.
So for now, I’ll continue to enjoy cherries in the winter.