Is Fresh and Local always Greener?

Joyce Dopkeen/The New York Times: Produce at the huge Hunts Point Market in the Bronx.

We have been discussing this for years, and Andrew Martin of the New York Times jumps into the fray noting a new 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."

Well, yes, of course, but that is why we love our farmers' markets...

Martin continues:

Consider strawberries. If mass producers of strawberries ship their product to Chicago by truck, the fuel cost of transporting each carton of strawberries is relatively small, since it is tucked into the back along with thousands of others.

But if a farmer sells his strawberries at local farmers’ markets in California, he ferries a much smaller amount by pickup truck to each individual market. Which one is better for the environment?"

The article is full of questions and few answers, but makes a few good points, and concludes:

Certainly, there are many reasons for eating local food — from supporting local farmers to a desire for fresher, potentially tastier food. The research in California, however, offers the prospect of a more nuanced debate on eating a low-carbon diet. In the meantime, the research has already led one researcher to this conclusion:

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. ::New York Times

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