Friday, October 3, 2014

“Locally Grown”

I picked up a head of red leaf lettuce at the supermarket the other day. “Locally Grown,” said the wrapper. The grower is in Michigan, 268 miles away.

There is no single standard for “locally grown.” A 2008 bill, H.R. 2419, defines a “locally or regionally produced agricultural product” as one

(i) which is produced and distributed in the locality or region where the finished product is marketed;

(ii) which has been shipped a total distance of 400 or fewer miles, as determined by the Secretary [of Agriculture]; and

(iii) about which the distributor has conveyed to the end-use consumers information regarding the origin of the product or production practices, or other valuable information.
The first two conditions seem nearly contradictory: few if any shoppers at a farmers market would think of “locally grown” produce as having originated 400 miles away. The joining of locally and regionally here engenders confusion.

“Locally grown” begins to look meaningless: all produce, wherever it’s grown, is grown locally. The real question is where it’s sold.

comments: 4

Diane Schirf said...

For a long time I kept seeing commercials for milk from California. Assuming cows are treated compassionately, etc., why would I want milk that's been trucked in for thousands of miles (a waste of gas) when parts of Wisconsin are so close? (I'd say northern Illinois and northern Indiana, but haven't seen as many dairy farms around here.) I never got the placement of those commercials in the Midwest.

JuliaR said...

What is the opposite of 'locally grown'? "Grown far away." When I look at it that way, I can see that they mean it is grown close to where it is being sold. But I appreciate the cleverness of "everything is grown locally."

Daughter Number Three said...

In the Twin Cities, the food co-ops use, I think, a 250-mile rule in general, though they try for closer. Which gets us into just northern Iowa, mid-Minnesota, and the driftless region of Wisconsin, which is a big organic farming area.

Our farmers market in St. Paul uses 50 miles as a cutoff.

Diane Schirf said...

It would have to be variable — some urban areas are too sprawling to have much nearby produce.

With reference to the Driftless Area — Mill Bluff State Park in Wisconsin is amazing.