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Great Comment from Mimi Sheraton on locavores

This was in an interview at eater.com:

"I think the locavores should stay home, that they shouldn't fly back and forth, especially from California making big carbon footprints in the sky to speak to us about the importance of being local."

It made me laugh. The rest of the interview is here:

http://eater.com/archives/2011/01/18/...

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  1. Amen. And they should also be required to live on salted/preserved meat, root or canned vegetables (canned locally of course), and dried fruit for at least one Winter before being allowed to open their mouths in public...

    Needless to say, I'm all for people understanding where their food comes from and what producing it involves, let alone exercising at least a modicum of intelligence in their food choices, but that's got nothing to do with people yapping about the latest fads in their little corner of popular culture...

    1. I completely disagree with her on peaches. I used to live in SC. I remember going to my boyfriend's fathers peach orchard and picking a three napkin peach off the tree, eating it, tossing it, grabbing another. Those were the best peaches I've ever had. SC and GA peaches are amazing. When you're in SC or GA. I've been in IL for over 20 years now and I've yet to have a SC or GA peach that comes even close to that deliciousness and most of them just plain suck. Now, the peaches I picked from the local farm this summer? THey were heaven. Best peaches I've had for years. Nothing close to as good as a SC peach in SC, but a helluva lot better than a SC peach in IL.

      But don't mind me, I'm just yapping about the latest fad here in my corner of the world.

      11 Replies
      1. re: debbiel

        I think she agrees with you:
        "But if I were faced with a Pennsylvania peach or Georgia peach, I would take the Georgia peach every time"

        1. re: roxlet

          I would take the PA peach if I'm in PA; the GA peach if I'm in GA. Rarely would a GA peach taste better than a PA peach in PA.

          1. re: debbiel

            Sorry, I misread your comment. I get great peaches on LI in the summer that are better than anything I could get from GA, so you and I are in agreement. However, the peaches I get are from a farm stand, so they are picked when they're perfect. It's so cold here today that just thinking about them warms me up. Ah, summer! Ah, peaches!

            1. re: roxlet

              Agreed. A local peach is heaven. I was so thrilled this last year with the arrival of u-pick organic peaches ~7 miles from my house. It brought me back to those days in the SC orchard.

              Somehow thinking about the local butternut and sweet dumpling squashes I still have from November doesn't warm the soul quite as much. :)

              1. re: debbiel

                Nope, you're right, it doesn't.

            2. re: debbiel

              I grew up in GA and moved to CA in my late 20s. I think CA peaches are far better than GA peaches.

              1. re: c oliver

                And that's fine. But...if you were in GA, would you take a GA peach or a CA peach?

              2. re: debbiel

                There's a peach orchard literally hundreds of feet from my front door. And they have other produce that they sell a 1/2 mile down the street parked next to a garden center. BEST peaches I have ever had. I'm allergic and I still risk it. There's something oddly gratifying about eating food that local. :)

              3. re: roxlet

                PA peaches are great in PA. and in the summer, in my corner of the world, nothing is better than a fresh Jersey peach from Oak Grove Plantation in Pittstowm. :-D

              4. re: debbiel

                When it doesn't make economic nonsense, eating local foods when they're available and the quality is good (let alone superior) falls into my category of "using a modicum of intelligence in making food choices." I just don't see the need for pretending it's some fabulous new idea that no one (with a brain) has ever heard of before, let alone turning it into a Movement...

                1. re: MikeG

                  As many "localvores" as I know, none of them have talked as if it's something new. Most of them talk about going BACK to some extent. I never quite understand the backlash against people who have certain values about their food.

              5. Yes, and her comments about the "food truck" fad and where do you eat it??? Sounds alot like my cranky 84 year old mother used to sound. It's tough getting old.

                39 Replies
                1. re: sedimental

                  Maybe Sheraton and your Mom have seen it all before, no? I have no time for food nano-trends and the vapid hipsterism around the locavore schtick. Funny how I never see that type when and where local food's on offer in season in my area.

                  1. re: Kagemusha

                    Maybe they have..or at least...*they* think they have!

                    I embrace all these food trends (nano or not), locavore, sustainability, organics, molecular, slow foods, charcuterie, artisanal foods, etc. I love it all and learn from it all. As I age (now over the half century mark) I hope my interest in food and life stays fresh -and I remain open to changes and different ideas. I hope I never say something like "where the hell do they eat it"? When talking about food truck food....or like my mom would say "what are you looking at on the computer for so long"..."is there THAT much to see in there"? LOL

                    1. re: Kagemusha

                      I'm in my 40s and completely unhip. Live in a midwestern town. Try to eat locally. What schtick?

                      1. re: debbiel

                        Maybe they call it "schtick" if you are a wealthy Manhattan urbanite with limited access to real fresh food...the rest of the United States just considers shopping locally "smart grocery shopping"! LOL

                        1. re: sedimental

                          Except that "Manhattan urbanites" (are there any Manhattan dwellers who are somehow *not* urbanites?) can visit the city's many greenmarkets, which sell local products exclusively - access to "real fresh food" is not at all limited. I'm speaking as a non-wealthy person, though. Maybe you know something I don't, like that rich people aren't allowed to shop outside or whatever.

                          1. re: small h

                            I was also thinking about her comment about not wanting to go into Brooklyn because there were no restaurants there worth standing in line for. Maybe she actually does her own shopping? She seems to think that shopping local is a bad thing.

                            1. re: sedimental

                              She went on to say that she needs a damn good reason to go above 23rd Street, and then gave an example of one such damn good reason. Hence, the Brooklyn comment is not so much a swipe at Brooklyn as an expression of Sheraton's general unwillingness to spend too much time and effort going out to eat when she isn't sure she'll have a worthwhile experience. I think she's earned the right to have that attitude.

                              And I can't figure out what this has to do with my initial post. Can you enlighten me?

                              1. re: small h

                                I am not trying to argue with you. I am stating my opinion. The OP stated that s/he thought that Sheraton's comments were "Great". I disagree. I think Sheraton is an entitled ass, is "out of date", and it is discouraging to see someone in her position going out of her way to criticize the growing trend of eating more local and more fresh. This country needs to support local growers, eat healthier and eat better quality food at a decent price. It is a win-win. I think it's a shame that Sheraton chooses to use her celebrity in a negative way.

                                I am sure she eats whatever she wishes from far away and out of season. That is a benefit of being very wealthy or at least upper middle class. I don't discourage wealth! I have money to eat what I want/ when I want, as well. However, there are many in this country that cannot do that. So, I find her (and her comments) generally repulsive.

                                1. re: sedimental

                                  I think you are misinterpreting Sheraton rather drastically. She does not, to me, seem to be knocking local foods. She's saying she prefers to eat the best foods, be they local or otherwise. And she's throwing a bit of backhanded criticism at those who use "locavore" as a synonym for "virtuous." Like Alice Waters, as roxlet notes - correctly, I think - below.

                                2. re: small h

                                  Local is BAD...but I need a DAMN good reason to go above 23rd Street???? What a joke! Do you not see the irony?

                                  1. re: sedimental

                                    Nope. Nowhere does Sheraton say that local is bad. In fact, she says "I'm not a total locavore," meaning she is at least a semi-locavore.

                                    1. re: small h

                                      I suppose if you don't take her condescending comments (above) about people that attempt to promote local foods as "bad"...then, we can just disagree. I think her words convey pretty clearly where she stands on the subject.

                                      1. re: sedimental

                                        But that isn't what she's saying at all. I think you need to read the interview more carefully. She's implying that it's obnoxious to call yourself a locavore if you habitually fly cross country, since a couple of ears of local corn is not going to offset the jet fuel you consume.

                                        1. re: small h

                                          But that's a false argument anyway. It is not uncommon for vegetarians, vegans, locavores, etc. to be held to some bizarre standard of purism. Having an interest in supporting local food AND taking a plane does not make one a hypocrite. It makes one a person who supports local food and takes a plane trip. Why do I have to offset my jet fuel just because I want to get my chevre from the local cheese makers? And one can be concerned about the environment without going off the grid.

                                          All that said, if she was simply referring to Alice Waters, who drives me up a wall, I'm cool with the comments. :)

                                          1. re: debbiel

                                            I think she's referring to people like Alice Waters, if not Alice Waters herself.

                                            The first draft of my post, which I now see might have more clearly represented what I was trying to convey, was something like "it's obnoxious to call yourself a locavore, because you really aren't one, at least not if you drink coffee and eat salt and also live in the continental U.S., while at the same time sadly shaking your head at the poor misguided souls who don't meet your own personal standards of locavorism because they shop at supermarkets."

                                            But I thought that was too long.

                                            1. re: small h

                                              But most people I know who consider themselves locavores aren't talking about eating exclusively some 100 mile diet. There talking about focusing more, not only, on local foods. I drink tea and eat bananas and use olive oil. If I could get those things locally, I would. I can't, so I get them from far away. It's an approach to eating more locally, not an all or nothing stance. Are there some all or nothing folks out there? Sure, but I'm guessing they are few and far between. How many of these "locavore" people are really shaking their heads at "poor misguided souls"?

                                              1. re: debbiel

                                                We are drifting off topic. I joined this thread to counter sedimental's incorrect statement that people who live in Manhattan have "limited access to real fresh food" (a sad shake of the head if ever there was one). And once I read the Sheraton interview and determined that she had not really attacked the local food movement at all, I posted with my interpretation of what Sheraton meant (I'm going with "pretty much exactly what she said"). I have yet to offer my own actual opinion (here) on locavores or anything else.

                                          2. re: small h

                                            I get it. I think it is an obnoxious argument.
                                            I also think there are spokespeople for different food "movements" that are obnoxious, but the cause is still a good one. Alice Waters (and even Jamie Oliver) sort of "stick in my craw". However, I would not promote negative press or snottiness toward *the cause* due to not liking a spokesperson like Sheraton did. If she doesn't like Alice, she should just say so...stop with bringing the local food movement into it.

                                            1. re: sedimental

                                              There is a difference between "the local food movement" and "people who are absurdly smug about their participation in the local food movement." I think it's perfectly fine to slam the latter. (Most) people will understand that you aren't also slamming the former.

                              2. re: sedimental

                                Really - that surprises me. When I visit relatives in various towns around the US, my impression is that most of the shopping is done in supermarkets selling very little, if any, locally grown/raised food.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  That is not my experience, most local supermarkets sell alot of local items. That is why I have so much fun when I travel. I love to hit the grocery stores in other states! My daughter just moved to South Carolina and was sending me food pictures from her local grocery store. She has been thrilled since she arrived.
                                  I suppose if all you buy is Kraft Mac and Cheese, it doesn't matter though.

                                  1. re: sedimental

                                    That's impressive. When I visit family in Iowa, N. Wisconsin and southwestern VA, I can only buy local items at "specialty" stores.

                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                      I'm surprised to hear that about Northern WI, but I don't think there are a lot of small family farms in Iowa anymore. :( Everyone is raising corn and beef for IBP, it seems.

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        Are you kidding? When I was in Wisconsin...I went nutz in the cheese isle of a local grocery store. Oh, they HAD Kraft...but that isn't what I bought. I even brought back cheese curds in a cooler on the plane as a carry on. Don't get me started on the terrific local ice cream! I don't remember all I bought (maybe local sausage?) but there is plenty of opportunity to buy local in a "regular" grocery store there. Vote with your feet. Buy local instead of corporate and there will be more of it.

                                        1. re: sedimental

                                          We did buy local ice cream - from a farm where one left cash on the honor system. And there was a farmer's market on Saturdays, with, frankly, more jewelry than food. Though I did buy some lovely honey and honey comb that I brought back to NY. The local eggs we bought from a little farm stand off the highway must have been about three weeks old. But, at the local grocery store - not so much in the way of local food.

                                          Trust me -- I do try. I love to cook, and when I go up to N. Wisconsin for two weeks every summer, I'd love to be able to buy locally and cook from that. But, I've learned from experience that that just isn't going to work.

                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                            Ew, three week old eggs. From a farm stand, which, I'm assuming, doesn't have optimal refrigeration :(

                                            I imagine Northern Wisconsin to be a lot like Northern MN because I find the two states culturally similar in a lot of ways, but apparently my assumption is wrong.

                                            In the supermarkets in Northern MN (Duluth and the Iron Range), I do find a lot of local products in the grocery stores, but it's often local meat specialty products and baked goods. The rest of the meat, dairy, produce in the regular grocery store is usually not spectacular or that local as far as I can tell, though there are pockets here and there where you'll find locally-raised goods in odd places, such as homemade soups, baked goods and dairy in a gas station convenience shop, that sort of thing. Again, I think a lot of people who have the interest and means (time, space, etc.) raise their own produce. I also think people rely on their butcher quite a bit. And, around Lake Superior, the fish market. Not really sure what most people do for dairy in these towns--it sounds like in WI there's a lot of local dairy. I guess I haven't paid as much attention to dairy when I'm out and about, aside from cheeses, a lot of which, frankly, comes from WI.

                                            ~TDQ

                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              True about people growing their own produce. An employee at the grocery store kindly brought in some chives from her garden once for me!

                                            2. re: MMRuth

                                              Gee, I live smack dab in sw VA and you're right if the grocery store you walked into was a Kroger or a Food Lion or a Walmart, etc. You're not going to see anything locally grown or made there. Walk into a family/locally owned non-chain grocery store and you will find *some* locally grown produce and products. Yes, you will see more local goods at "specialty" stores: natural food stores, gourmet food stores because those stores go out of their way to source local and are easier for the local growers/producers to get in to than the chain or even local owned grocery stores. It's no more difficult to drive to the "specialty" store than it is to the Food Lion.

                                              The farmers markets here vary in what they offer just as all farmers markets do across the nation and ultimately the people in charge of running those markets determine the ratio of food vs craft vendors. My town's farmers market opens the market on Friday evenings for craft vendors while Saturday is limited to food vendors. But there are many empty tables at the Saturday market and I fault the management for this too. In order to sell at the market a grower must sign up and pay for up front either a whole or half season. There is no other option. A lot of the small growers here simply won't do this because they know they can't produce enough to fill this obligation on a weekly basis although they would be more than happy to pay a higher fee per table on a first come/first serve basis than those growers who can afford a full/half season fee. In order to move their produce through the market they are forced to accept a lower price for their goods by selling them to a local "coop" that turns around and resells them at the market for a premium. Everyone loses except the "coop": The market looks shabby because there are so many empty tables, the small growers get a pittance for their crop, variety is limited, the customers have little or no interaction with the actual growers and end up paying more for what they buy than if the tables were full and the "coop" had to actually compete with other growers.

                                              And that's just the produce vendors. If you are offering something "value-added" there are even more hoops to jump through. "Value-added" products are jams, jellies, preserves, baked goods, dried goods, cheeses, sauces, etc. Basically anything that is not raw produce. It must be produced in a certified kitchen and all recipes must be submitted to and tested by (in our area) Virginia Tech before being sold to the public. There's an overall charge and a charge for each recipe being tested. Now I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but the whole package is a hideously expensive thing. It is extraordinarily difficult to get a home kitchen certified. Most people with certified kitchens in their homes actually have built a second kitchen separate from their daily kitchens which is certified and used exclusively for market production. Most people can't afford a second mortgage to fulfill that requirement. They must have their water tested regularly and the kitchen inspected regularly at their own expense. Plus they must carry insurance. Alternatively, there may be a certified kitchen in the area that can be rented. The nearest one here is 45 miles away. To use it a producer must pay an overall fee and then a fee per item depending on packaging. Plus the producer must still pay for recipe testing, insurance, and now the added cost/time of hauling all materials and ingredients to the certified kitchen, then hauling them back, then hauling them to market. Then, once someone has made that commitment, invested their time and money to get through the hoops, imagine their heartbreak and frustration to discover upon arriving at the market that the market coordinator has given a free weekly table to a local charity and that table is loaded with donated baked goods, preserves, etc. not required to be inspected/approved and being sold at not even a fraction of what the producer has invested in order to make a living.

                                              There's so many requirements, behind the scenes issues, and politics that go on with farmers markets that the average customer never knows about. If there's more jewelry vendors than local produce/food vendors some of the above issues may be at play and the market coordinators are filling their empty tables with craft vendors to make the market appear full and active, or to at least keep it alive. As a customer at our farmers market, I make as many purchases from the non-coop vendors as I can, I refuse to buy anything from the charity table (though I donate directly to that charity at it's office), and I constantly tell the management that they should open up the empty tables on a first come/first serve and fairly priced basis to growers who don't want to sell to the coop. I want to see/support more local vendors and I try to use my dollar and my voice to make that known to the management. Farmers markets, perhaps more so then other businesses, are customer driven and will improve only if the customers make their desires and demands known to the market management.

                                              1. re: morwen

                                                Wow, that's a pretty bad situation you have in your area, but I hope it isn't the norm. It isn't the case here. I've interviewed many local farmers and producers who are vocal about the fact that the local co-op pays better, is fairer, and is a major contributor to their ability to survive as farmers. The main farmer's market here is different as well... they allow non -produce vendors, but there are much smaller growers and producers as well as the big ones thriving off the market, which is open most of the year and packed with people from about June through October. We also have quite a lot of CSA's which lower the cost for the consumer, and give the farmers some assured income. As far as prepared food licensing, that's a national issue that unfortunately is unlikely to improve on the government end. You're right, supporting the small local producers whenever possible is the best we can do.

                                                1. re: getfoodie

                                                  I know the smaller growers would be bringing their own produce to the market if they could buy space on a weekly basis. And by smaller growers I'm referring to folks around here who grow what we call truck gardens; larger than a big home garden but smaller than 5 acres. These people grow great fruit and produce but will have breaks in their garden production when they can't bring enough to market to justify the cost of a whole or half season fee upfront. Our market is open May-early November and it has die-hard regular buyers but every week I'm there I see people walk by, peer in at the empty tables, and keep going. It just doesn't have the appearance of a thriving market and unfortunately, that "thriving market appearance" is what brings customers in. We have tons of CSA's here. We even have an "Apothecary CSA" starting up this year providing medicinal fresh herbs (not sure how that'll fly). But herbs provide a perfect example of the coop's choke hold. There are no fresh herbs at the market for you and I to buy. The coop has gone around and contracted with all the herb growers (3 counties worth) in advance for their crops. These fresh herbs are sold strictly to the restaurant trade. If you are the average farm market customer here in order to have herbs you have to grow your own or buy them at the grocery store. For some larger growers I'm sure the coop is a boon for them taking the marketing problem off their hands, for others it's a rock and a hard place.

                                          2. re: MMRuth

                                            I completely agree with you. We live at Lake Tahoe and also shop in Reno. Rarely is the food in the markets local. Even the farmers markets things in the summer are from about 100 miles away. We're at a high elevation with a short growing season.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              I agree with this too. When we are out on LI in the summers with incredible farm stands littering the road, I am shocked to see supermarket shoppers with non-local tomatoes and corn in their wagons. Why would you buy that in the summer? The supermarket never has local produce.

                                              1. re: roxlet

                                                I agree, I buy most of our produce at farm stands in the summer (I live in Hunterdon County NJ & we have tons of them) but my local Shop-Rite does carry local produce in the growing season. And lots of it. I just prefer to go to the markets and stands for a better selection, usually fresher and just for the plain fun of it.

                                                1. re: flourgirl

                                                  I agree, flourgirl. I did once hear that the reason the supermarkets often don't carry local produce has to do with their relationships with their usual produce suppliers and how, if they were to start featuring local produce, their usual suppliers would serve them last when there were shortages of produce in the off season. It sort of makes sense, but I can't vouch for the source...

                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                    I've heard that too, roxlet, but also -- Our co-op works to use local suppliers whenever possible, which means they pay higher prices to those other suppliers, and have more logistical difficulties, since small local farmers often can't consistently supply the way a big multi-source supplier can. I'm willing to deal, but lots of people want to walk to the tomato display and pick up an identical tomato every week, no matter from where or how much. Grocery chains don't want every store manager scrambling to develop relationships with local farmers, negotiate prices, deal with shortages. It's easier to sell tomatoes from a thousand miles away when there are tons of fresh, local ones within a few miles.

                                                  2. re: flourgirl

                                                    Yum! NJ Tomatoes! Flourgirl is right. When I lived in Jersey, the local Shop-Rite, as well as the Pennington Market and other grocery stores carried local and excellent produce in season. My market of choice for fresh fruits and veg wasLittle Acres in Pennington, NJ.
                                                    I can't..absolutely can't eat tomatoes when they are not in season. There is something wonderful and satisfying when you take that fresh-in season, red and slightly green in spots, big, juicy tomato and slice it in half, sprinkle a little salt over it and bite into that baby! MMMM..the juice running down your chin--well it is finger-lickin' good! The same goes for strawberries. For three weeks out of the year, you could go pick your own strawberries at Little Acres and come home to REAL berries. Pinky-red in the middle--not white like those grocery store strawbs. Nice and juicy...Ohhhhh I cannot wait for summer!

                                            2. re: sedimental

                                              First of all, "local" doesn't necessarily equate to quality. If you're from Central MN, the cheese in Kraft Mac & Cheese IS local. On a high-humidity day, you can lick the orange powder off of any car in town. Green Giant is also "local", as are Land O'Lakes and Hormel.

                                              I think this is one of those things that depends on the individual consumer and the particular community. Even in the "breadbasket" of the midwest, there are small towns where there isn't a local family farm in sight. All the output from those farms is committed to big, corporate enterprises. People in those communities don't find a lot of local produce and meats in their grocery stores. If they want "local" produce, they often grow it in their own gardens, and many do.

                                              I also know families that do have access to more "family" type farms, but many of those folks still have huge gardens they live off of all summer and, through canning and cold storage, most of, but not all of winter. They also have access to meat, lamb, pork, and dairy through personal connections with the people who raise the animals. They do a lot of their own fishing and hunt their own duck and the occasional goose or grouse. They personally know--and have known for decades-- the various ranchers who raise their lamb, pork, and beef.

                                              But, even in those communities, there are plenty of people who shop at the big grocery stores and purchase "national" brands. Not everyone is a Chowhound or cares where their food comes from. It's a sad truth.

                                              ~TDQ

                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                Absolutely. That is why those who know food or work in the food industry should educate and encourage more healthy, local foods. Not do what Sheraton just did.

                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                  but. . . um. . . the folks who shop at wal mart and purchase national brands. . . don't know mimi sheraton from zsa zsa gabor (or alice waters, for that matter), anyway. so wtf do they care what she says?

                                  2. Well, I took this as a direct swipe at Alice Walters. There. I said it.

                                    11 Replies
                                    1. re: roxlet

                                      Oh, well then I'm fine with it. :)

                                          1. re: roxlet

                                            "...especially from California...". Hello, Alice. Sure sounds like it to me. Easy to eat local where the temperature seldom goes below 50 all year round.
                                            I like her "bestivore" title myself.

                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              The funny thing is, I think the concept of "bestivore" (which is good, I agree) isn't necessarily incongruent with the original locavore concepts as I recall them. I thought one of the "locavore" principles was if you stray from eating from your local "foodshed", do so in order to get the best stuff, eg., champagne from the appropriate region France or Parmigiano from Italy, etc.

                                              ~TDQ

                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  For me, I think that it's the "holier than thou" attitude that Mimi is referring to rather than the specifics of locavore or bestivore principles.

                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                    Yes, I agree. If there is anyone that knows all about being "holier than thou"...it's Mimi Sheraton! I am sure she will get alot of flack for her statements as well!

                                                    The "message" (any message) sure can get twisted when the messenger is an obnoxious bore.

                                                    1. re: sedimental

                                                      Really? Many years ago I had the occasion to spend quite a bit of time with Mimi and I never found her to be an obnoxious bore. She was always lovely and gracious and very willing to hear other opinions. She has a point of view, that's for sure, but really, I consider that to be part of being a critic.

                                                2. re: buttertart

                                                  Alice Waters reminds me of that South Park episode "Smug Alert!"

                                              1. I just noticed this thread and it's like dejavu all over again. I remember a similar thread from last summer, shortly after I began posting on Chow, and I got into an exchange with someone who apparently no longer posts here (I hope it isn't because of me). Anyway the intrepid moderators shut the thread down. I just looked for it but couldn't find it. Do they delete threads such as that one?

                                                I agree that it just makes sense to buy local when there is good local food available. Right now in Minnesota, there is no local, fresh produce available. I'm not going to feel guilty about buying fresh produce now no matter where it was grown. On the last thread I was told we should only eat home canned produce and root vegetables during the winter. The exchange that followed is what shut the thread down.

                                                14 Replies
                                                1. re: John E.

                                                  I still have a number of my CSA squashes and root vegetables left (although, to be honest, the root vegetables are starting to look pretty soft and scary) and am gradually working away at all of the tomatoes we canned. We didn't freeze much this year as we usually, except for rhubarb. Don't know why.

                                                  But, yes, we, too are starting to supplement with non-local produce.

                                                  ~TDQ

                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                    No matter where it was grown? Do you think it would make a difference to choose produce from Mexico and California vs Chile and Peru? Admittedly, It is hard to really know, but with a 747 cargo plane using as much fuel as it does, I personally can't justify buying opposite hemisphere avocadoes. 100 miles is an awfully tight circle, 500 more realistic, 1000 brings very few limitations, see no reason to go 5000.

                                                    1. re: babette feasts

                                                      I agree BUT. Sam used to point out occasionally that creating an exportable agricultural business in places like Peru can help at least some with the drugs. If people have some options to earn money legitimately....
                                                      (Damn, I miss him esp. at times like this. He could explain this better and more eloquently.)

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        Yes, it's not an all or nothing venture. It is also NOT just about fruits and vegetables. It is about meat, dairy and "production" issues like local grain mills, coffee roasters, etc. and using co ops and farmers markets first and choosing to eat more "seasonally". I have seen our local supermarkets completely transform with the growing awareness of "locavores" and feeling pressured to compete. The change has been amazing.

                                                        As a foodie, I love it. I have choice everywhere around me now and I couldn't say that even 5 years ago. I think it's great. It really is more expansive rather than limiting. I still go to a chain grocery store, still buy banana's there-but now I have the choice (right there) for local dairy milk in a glass bottle on the shelf right next to Dairygold milk (more corporate)- depending on what I want the milk for. No separate trip! Way cool.

                                                      2. re: babette feasts

                                                        We make sensible decisions. Most avocados are from California anyway, aren't they? I compare price and quality and don't pay as much attention to origin as some on this board likely do. I do buy bananas, and other fruit and vegetables that come from other countries. How much produce is shipped (so to speak) by air?

                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                          Very little is shipped by air. Most produce coming from S America, for example, goes by container ship. Most people promoting "locavorism" don't realize that this form of transportation actually typically has a smaller carbon footprint than so-called local produce. Generally speaking, a head of lettuce from California, or a bag of grapes from Chile, is landed in your local supermarket on the east coast with LESS fuel consumption than that burned by a farmer bringing a similar amount of stuff 75 miles to the farmers market. Just a fact. Fuel use has a lot more to do with the type of vehicle and the volume than it does miles. "Food miles" is a bogus concept.

                                                          1. re: johnb

                                                            You're right about the refrigerated container shipment of produce from SA and other places, air transport is way too expensive for any but high-value, short shelf-life products. (I'm in the transportation business and it amazes me how few people really know or even bother to think about how things get into the country.)

                                                            1. re: johnb

                                                              Johnb, do you have any sources you could possibly link, with the carbon (and other relevant emissions) calculations used to dub "food miles" as a "bogus concept"? Thanks!

                                                              1. re: mateo21

                                                                There are many. Most do a life-cycle calculation including production energy use and find that it's nearly always better to produce where conditions are favorable and then transport to market. The most oft-quoted of these is the Lincoln University of New Zealand study--you can easily find and download it by googling. Here is another more or less randomly chosen link along these lines:

                                                                http://www.ethicurean.com/2008/06/23/...

                                                                Here is a link to a NYT article by McWillians that briefly makes several such points and refers to other studies (he also has a book out

                                                                )

                                                                http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/06/opi...

                                                                Here is a link to an illustrative example I put together and posted on another board--these numbers, while typical, are only hypothetical, but they do make the point more clear:

                                                                http://donrockwell.com/index.php?show...

                                                                The basic problem is that most people think that if you double the miles you double the fuel use. That would be true if all else were held equal, but all else isn't equal. Long hauls nearly always involve large quantities, so the fuel use per food unit is much reduced. In addition, when the transportation is by rail or especially containership, fuel use per food unit moved practically drops out of sight due to the extreme fuel efficiency of those forms of transportation. As I noted in my example, you merely driving your car the additional distance to the farmer's market turns out to be a huge part of the total transport fuel use.

                                                                Hope that's enough to get you started. There's lots more out there.

                                                                1. re: johnb

                                                                  johnb, I'm interested in your view of this report:

                                                                  http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu...

                                                                  Carbon Footprint Analysis for Kaiser Permanente
                                                                  Food Procurement Alternatives in Northern California

                                                                  1. re: souvenir

                                                                    I scanned it--looks like fully absorbing it would take more time than I have (at the moment I'm dividing my time between CH and the new season premier of Top Gear on BBC, which I'm partially time-shifting on the DVR).

                                                                    Anyway, it's hard to trace just how they got to the final numbers, but it appears that, unlike my example, they are generally comparing similar types of producers and similar types/sizes of transport, so it stands to reason the closer source would be better. If I were a big buyer in California like them I'd buy local too--why ship stuff in from Mexico? Seems like coals to Newcastle. It does show that the results you get depend on the specific circumstances you're dealing with. Clearly a large buyer's choices will differ from the options available to the typical household. In a way, I'm surprized the cost spreads weren't even bigger.

                                                                    If I get a chance to look more deeply into it, I'll report further.

                                                                  2. re: johnb

                                                                    Thanks for the links, Johnb. Great information -- these are questions we need to asking of our food production system if we are going to feed everyone on the planet in the coming decades. I do, however, find it interesting that at least two of the articles you mentioned disagree with your initial post (although I think your second post is much better written, not speaking in as much of absolutes as your first, e.g. food miles are bogus).

                                                                    Souvenir cites and interesting study, although the literature strength isn't too strong, the other few articles you linked only quoted a study or two (or none). What they all seem to agree on is that there are bigger fish to fry, so to speak. However your last link is a rather simplistic, and poor napkin calculation, that doesn't hold up to scrutiny -- because it leaves too many variables unconsidered; as you say, cetaris paribus, straight gains in carbon emissions might be wrongly assumed via miles for carbon emitted is always better, the local food movement cites numerous additional benefits beyond that.

                                                                    I really like the New Zealand vs. british lamb example. This is why we need (if I may bring anther non-food hot-botton issue up) a solid science education in this country. Is that a lot of these problems are not simple assumed calculations as you pointed out, and critical thinking on these issues is paramount for success. I shop as local as a can as much for social reasons as economic as much as environmental -- I walk to my farmers market, and know many of them. I do feel the need to point out the lack of sustainability calculations in some of these reports -- e.g. will it be possible 50 years from now to ship lamb from NZ to GB (likewise, if that isn't possible, it most likely won't be possible to ship the feed to GB to make up for the shortcomings of their pasturing abilities).

                                                              2. re: John E.

                                                                Avocadoes come from a variety of places. Where I shop, lately the signs say Mexico but the tags on the fruit say Chile. The California crop comes later than the Mexico crop, so I guess we'll see them in a few months.

                                                                I really don't know about shipping methods, and c oliver has a good point, too (re: Sam), which is why it is so hard to know what is really the 'best' decision. Shopper's paralysis, anyone? I would imagine that perishable produce is air freighted, would asparagus last on a container ship from south america? Or can they keep it cold enough/gas it enough to hold it?

                                                                Either way, i realized right after I posted that how small a part produce plays, and how little attention i really pay. I don't give a second thought to buying French cheese or Australian wine or Latvian smoked fish. Maybe avocadoes are just easier to give up? And I hate the farmers' market, I really don't want to get to know each farmer individually and have 12 different social interactions while I shop, I just want to be able to shop without distraction and check out all at once. Hmm.

                                                                1. re: babette feasts

                                                                  YIKES!!!! I never even thought about wine and cheese. That skews the whole thing, for me anyway.