Friday, June 13, 2008
Locavorism. Ever heard the term? Probably not, but then again, maybe so. Let me tell you about locavorism.
When Katherine Gray takes her children to the grocery store, they can pick out as many apples and pears as their hearts desire. But bananas? Pineapples? Mangoes? Sorry, those things aren’t available in their Portland, Oregon, grocery store. Why? Food shortage? No. Boycott of certain fruits and veggies? Again, no. The reason those fruits aren’t available is because if they aren’t grown within 100 miles of Gray’s house, chances are they won’t make it into the grocery cart.
For many years, locavorism, the idea of eating only food grown locally and in season, was reserved for upscale chefs or serious hippies living off the grid—all the while, the rest of us “normal” folks didn’t think twice about munching on blueberries from Chile or avocadoes from Mexico.
Recently, however, a small but devoted number of Americans have started to think a lot more about the origin of the food going into their grocery cart. Worried about the environmental impact of shipping food hundreds of miles, plus the dwindling fate of local farmers–and obsessed with the idea of eating really good food–these extreme eaters try to only buy food that is grown within a 100-mile radius of their own home.
Jennifer Maiser, one of a group of San Francisco “locavores” who pioneered an effort to eat locally a few years ago said, “When we first started talking about it, at the beginning, people thought we were a little bit off our rockers, and now it’s become part of this mainstream discussion.”
Around the same time, a couple in Vancouver, British Columbia, became alarmed after hearing about a study by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, which showed that the average distance a piece of produce travels from U.S. farms to households in the upper Midwest is 1,500 miles. They made the decision to spend a year trying to live only on food grown within 100 miles of their Canada home.
A book about their effort, Plenty, spawned a devoted international following, and now co-author Alisa Smith says activities related to eating locally, such as speaking engagements, are pretty much a full-time job. The fact that eating locally has touched such a nerve still surprises her. “When we first started writing it, it was a personal experiment for us,” she says. “But we started to hear from people in England, France, Australia, and it just took off from there.”
The movement has grown popular enough to spawn serious research into how much eating locally could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with at least one researcher arguing that, other benefits aside, it may not be the environmental savior some are hoping for.
Well, folks, this movement hasn’t reached Alabama, I can tell you that! Don’t get me wrong. We produce a lot of produce in Alabama. We really do. Especially in the summer time. Peaches, the best peaches in the world grow in Alabama—but the folks in Portland, Oregon, will not know about them—neither with the folks in Vancouver, British Columbia. Too bad for them—great for us—more peaches for the people of Alabama.
We also grow watermelons, turnips, collards, corn, peanuts and dozens of other things. All of which the people of Oregon and Canada will miss out on. I’m assuming they will also miss out on soybeans and cotton (since we are leaders in those areas as well). So, what do they do for cooking oil and cotton for clothes? Can they only buy clothes that are made within a hundred miles of where they live? If so, that rules out things made in China and Hong Kong and Thailand.
While I appreciate people taking a serious look at the environment and trying to protect what God has given to us, my question has always been, where do you draw the line? Can you only put gas in your car that comes from within 100-miles? Can you only use electricity that is produced within a 100-miles from your home? What about TV shows? Can you watch something that didn’t originate 100-miles away or less? What about radio? I know GPS, XM radio, and the Internet are off limits.
So, bring on the blueberries and cherries and plums and pineapples! I’ll take my chances with what little effect their shipment has on the environment. Fill up the grocery cart!