2007 was a big year for local food -- big enough that we'll have another "Best of 2007" dedicated to a specific local food practice, the "100 Mile Diet" -- and on the tip of enough tongues that it was named the 2007 word of the year. Here are some of the stories eating local surfaced in in the past year.
1) When it comes to learning more & doing more to make your life greener and getting ready for Earth Day, the choices you make in the food you eat every day can make a tremendous impact. There are lots of food choices that you can make that are better than pesticide-laden conventional, hormone-injected factory-farmed food; eating local is great way to practice Earth Day, every day, we found.
2) The cover of Time's March 12 issue shows an apple with a yellow sticker and the words: "Forget organic. Eat Local." We wouldn't go that far, things aren't that simple in real life, but it's interesting to see that local food is getting more airtime after organic food has been dominating the "green" food market over the past couple years. And when Time picks it up, you know it's gone mainstream.
3) Andrew Martin of the New York Times jumped into the fray, noting a California study (from the state that produces most of the food that gets shipped the farthest) suggesting that "the distance that food travels from farm to plate is certainly important, but so is how food is packaged, how it is grown, how it is processed and how it is transported to market." Bottom line: Don’t drive your sport utility vehicle to the farmers’ market, buy one food item and drive home again. Even if you are using reusable bags. Four more tales of local food, below the fold...
4) A group of farmers called out for what it has dubbed "agricultural justice," with a goal to bring the international fair-trade movement -- the same one that lobbies for worker equity and sustainability across the globe -- home to the Midwest. The Minnesota-based organization began a pilot project with four organic farmers and two food co-ops -- including Bluff Country Co-op -- in 2002 and, this year, started labeling and advertising in stores.
5) Farm Aid's mission has become increasingly TreeHugger-oriented over the years, as their efforts to make family farming more viable here in the US have begun to include appeals for more local food production (and resulting support of farmer's markets and overall decrease in food miles). For the 2007 incarnation, they took it a step further: for the first time at a major concert event, their goal is to serve 100 percent local, organic, humanely-raised and family-farmed food.
6) Looking back at 2007 will help us see where we're headed in 2008, and food miles will be up there on the list. To be sure, they are not the be all and end all when judging food impacts and can be misunderstood: “…it's important to look at the whole life cycle of food to really understand its energy consumption. They say the energy that goes into producing the food in the first place can sometimes be far more significant in terms of global carbon emissions."
7) Lastly, not one but two stories of when local food isn't so local: the first, when you get California plums at an Ontario farmer's market and the second when you can pick up some tasty Florida citrus at a Long Island farmer's market. The takeaways: As local food becomes big, watch out for scammers, going to the food terminal and then putting on the straw hat and old dirty hankie, and that the face of the farm stand may be rapidly changing (at least on Long Island) to be less about local agriculture and more about "agri-tainment."