Tuesday, July 29, 2014

You Call That LOCAL?

Isn't this pretty?
Last week, on my regular reconnaissance mission…I mean grocery shopping rounds…I noticed this gorgeous display of veggies.  
On closer inspection, I saw this…



It really says Canada.  In the LOCAL produce section. 

Now, excuse me if I seem to be slightly dense, but doesn’t LOCAL mean “pertaining to the neighborhood/community”?  …and isn’t Canada like 300+ miles from my little town here in the Shenandoah Valley?

…and that’s local?


I think not!

LOCAL is hot right now.  Real hot.  And, as producers selling our goods well, LOCAL-ly…we benefit greatly from the hotness. 

But, just what is LOCAL? There is no standardized definition of the word.  No certification process which one goes through (as with USDA Organic).  Anybody can say anything is local. Which I guess it is/was somewhere. Essentially, in many cases it’s a meaningless marketing phrase.  …and as a producer selling truly locally produced farm products, I just have to say, “that burns my biscuits…just a little!”

If consumers truly wish to shop local, to support the farmers and local entrepreneurs…they really need to do their shopping directly with the producers. 

grocery store idea of LOCAL
Supermarkets, grocery stores and yes, even some farm markets/stands are not selling food from here in the community. A lot of the produce sold here in the Valley (as local) is from places far, far away.  LOCAL gets stretched to the limits and it has become generally accepted that local is anything within 400 miles. 400 miles! (the Farm Act of 2008 set this as the standard for government programs...and no, I don't know why they picked that distance) Which means, that despite the fact that those peppers were grown in another country, it is acceptable to call them “local”. And, yes, I am calling foul on that one.

Personally, when it goes beyond the county lines, or at least the confines of our Valley, I’m thinking Nope, not local. …and that’s okay.

In order to keep the unique and regional qualities of our culture and cuisine, we shouldn’t ever try to be all things to all people.  Each region should be distinctive and different. Each and every locality should focus on their own special characteristics. The complete homogenization of American culture/food/society will lead to a bland and boring mediocrity.

Maybe it’s time to define LOCAL in some concrete terms. That's what the Staunton/Augusta Farmers' Market did years ago.

The folks who sell at our local Farmers’ Market are required to bring products created/grown within 50 miles of Staunton and the vendor must be directly involved with the production. This is strictly enforced and has caused some debate and discussion over the years. But, the steering committee felt it necessary to give the word some real definition and the consumers’ peace of mind.

Personally, I like knowing that those peppers I put in the relish this week came from a farm in Mt. Solon (less than ½ hour drive from Staunton).  Being able to talk to the actual grower, asking questions and getting advice, is invaluable to me as a consumer. 
Beautiful bell peppers
from Ulmer's Mountain View Farm
If you are committed to LOCAL food, then you must make some concessions in your diet and quite possibly your lifestyle.

That means NO strawberries in January, or asparagus in August.  It means that you may have to go out of your way to get that LOCAL meat or get up early to snag the sweet corn at the Market.  It also means that you have to understand that truly LOCAL coffee, citrus and bananas (among other things) are never going to happen here in the Valley. You must understand that climate pays a huge role in the varieties of foods grown locally and some items are only available for very limited seasons.

I would never begin to suggest that LOCAL is the only way to eat. I like the wide and eclectic variety offered by our global food community.  But, if you see yourself as a LOCAVORE…please be sure you are truly buying LOCAL and supporting your friends and neighbors in the farming community.

As one of those folks, I thank you for your support!

…and I still don’t think produce from CANADA should be considered LOCAL. (just sayin')


  1. Agree about the use of the word local Barbara.
    Those bell peppers look absolutely delicious - and Ibet they taste that way too.
    On principle,I try never to be vegetables which have had to be flown in (Beans from Kenya for instance).

    1. Beans from Kenya sound quite exotic. I do hope they're not labelled "local", though!

  2. Great post! I went into one of our "discount" grocery stores last week + they had a new similar display. I started looking over the veggies + most of them were shipped in from countries overseas. When I asked a store manager about it, he tried to claim that it's local because it's being sold locally -- how that makes sense, I'll never know! Great read on an important topic... thank you!

    1. Good for you! ...talking to the store manager.
      His logic astounds me. If everything sold locally is local...oh, never mind...can't begin to get my head around it.
      It would appear that words have lost any meaning. That's just sad.
      Thanks for the comment. :)