The Locavore’s Plight

Terry D. Etherton

If you are a “foodie” you might be part of the local food movement that passionately advocates that eating locally sourced food is preferable to food produced by contemporary production agriculture.  Much has been written about the pros and cons on this subject.

The local food movement championed by “locavores” enjoys passionate support by some in the media, chefs at “foodie” restaurants, and more than a few elected officials.  The realities I believe about the local food movement are dramatically divergent from the locavores’ perspective.

There was an article, The Locavore’s Dilemma:  Why Pineapples Shouldn’t Be Grown in North Dakota, that was recently posted on Library of Economics and Liberty that informatively and entertainingly discussed some of misleading claims made by supporters of locally produced food.  The article was written by Drs. Jayson Lusk and Bailey Norwood, two Ag Econ professors at Oklahoma State University.

Take a look…it is a terrific “read”!

There is some important background about market share and a definition of “local foods” when you read the post on Library of Economics and Liberty …local food markets are a small sliver of total agriculture sales in the United States.  Some other important points are:

• Local foods typically refers to foods produced near their point of consumption, but there is no consensus as to what distances constitute “local”.

• Direct-to-consumer marketing (i.e., of local foods) amounted to $1.2 billion in current dollar sales in 2007, according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, compared with $551 million in 1997.

• Direct-to-consumer sales accounted for 0.4 percent of total agricultural sales in 2007, up from 0.3 percent in 1997.

• The number of farmers’ markets rose to 5,274 in 2009, up from 2,756 in 1998 and 1,755 in 1994, according to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

So, there you have it.

For the “record”, I embrace the reality that local food translates to fresher food. And, I am supportive of helping to support local farmers.  In fact, I grew up on a family farm in Illinois.  The current generation of locavores would really embrace our family farm.  We had a huge production “garden”, planted sweet corn with a field corn planter (8-row, I might add), sold strawberries at the local grocery story, harvested tomatoes by the bushel basket, and engaged in a lot of very hard work!

Many in the locavore “crowd” create “confusion” among consumers by championing the belief that their food system philosophy is the best way forward for feeding the world in the future.  Their approach is simply not doable and denies the virtues of one of the great creations in society…the contemporary world food system.

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