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Local food: What does it mean to you?

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It's a little like natural these days, can mean anything and everything, no official guidelines, and thus is means nothing.
When you think of local food, what do you think of?
Do you aim to shop, eat locally?
I thought I cared, but the past few times I've grocery shopped, I've noticed how quickly those California avocados make it into my cart (I'm in Minnesota). What about you?

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  1. To me the term "local food" means either something that was produced or grown close to where it is being sold, or to something that is a speciality of the region.

    In general, I try to shop locally, but not exclusively. Most of the fruits, vegetables, pork, eggs, chicken, seafood, tea, chicken stock, rice and other grains with the exception of wheat I buy are local (grown within a few hundred kilometers).

    I am lucky enough to be in an area that has a year round growing season, so local produce is usually easily available, except for right after a typhoon.

    The imported foods I buy regularly include beef, cheese, coffee, lettuce, spices and herbs, anything made from wheat, wine, beer and hard liquor, some condiments, olive oil, and some canned goods (canned tomatoes, beans, artichoke hearts, olive and pickles).

    1. "Local" food is anything I can buy at the markets I use within a few miles of my home. "Nonlocal" food is food I must import myself, such as seafood I bring home from the PNW or things I must order by mail.

      2 Replies
      1. re: GH1618

        So an avocado from Mexico that you bought down the street is "local"?

        1. re: carolinadawg

          Yes. Even though I live in California, a lot of our produce comes from Mexico. It's much like getting produce from Salinas, just a little farther south. As long as it arrives in good condition, it works for me. There are very few avocados grown in Oakland, as far as I know.

      2. Can't wait for REAL NJ tomatoes and sweet corn. Some road side stand will probably have signs up THIS weekend syaing they have "local" stuff... but just NOT POSSIBLE until at least fourth of July or so.

        1. I shop locally whenever I can - and even in Philadelphia that's most of the time. The only things I don't buy locally are those things simply not available locally - So I get asparagus in the spring and never any other time, unless I have frozen my own, tomatoes, greens, etc. all the same. I can get local flour and dried beans and meats and cheeses (all within 100 miles) year round, salad greens too (sometimes grown hydroponically). That said I need lemons, limes, the occasional mango, avocados - that are NEVER in season here cause we can't grow them, so those I try to buy from the best sources I can - meaning organic (local is more important to me than organic btw), sustainably produced, etc.

          1. Anything grown within 100 miles is local, IMHO, and other than most seafood, it's pretty easy for me to keep within that radius.

            1. I shop locally when I can for vegetables, fruit, dairy and fish in particular but I don't pay much attention to it for other things and will buy something even if it's flown across the globe but looks fresh and tastes good

              1. I consider anything grown in the state (Colorado) or nearby states (like Nebraska) to be local. But, that's not always possible for certain things so if it's not grown around here, I at least look to see if it was grown in the US.

                1. Local to me means "local and seasonal".

                  For instance, asparagus is grown locally and has a short season yet it's available throughout the year as imported produce. I'm happy to eat asparagus just when its "local and seasonal". Similarly, we raise lamb yet also import it from New Zealand - I cannot recall the last time I bought imported.

                  There are, of course, some products which we cannot grow locally due to climate - citrus fruit, or coffee, for example - so these are items which I'm obliged to buy which have been produced elsewhere.

                  1. We grow our own produce and buy the rest of what is available from local markets. We even get local meats when we can afford them. But not all is available locally grown. We do what we can.

                    1. Local is anything grown or produced by myself or my neighbors. Otherwise, how would you know for sure?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: flavrmeistr

                        Every farm I've ever shopped at in every New England state, for example, labels each item they sell with signs that read, "Our Own" whatever it is. So, you'd know what was local or not. Additionally, items that are shipped in are labeled to tell where they were grown. Usually from a farm in the general vicinity or in a neighboring state.

                      2. For me, living where I do, local means anything grown within a radius of about 100 miles. That means I can buy produce, meat, and seafood grown and caught from Portland Me to Springfield MA to Port Judith RI. 100 miles east is the Atlantic Ocean but that means seafood.

                        Because we generally have 4 distinct seasons it means that I have to be concerned with how far away food has to be shipped in during the non-growing seasons. I'm lucky because there are several farms that are within a 26 mile radius that offer their own grown fruit, vegetables, fish, and meat, honey, jams, etc.. During our off season I can buy local hot house grown produce, and always fresh fish.

                        For those items noted by many others upthread that can't possibly be local , at our local market I try buy as many food stuffs grown up and down the east coast keeping in mind seasonality. Other items such as olive oil, avocados, rice and other staples must of necessity be shipped in from afar. I've been doing this for years so it seems very natural to me.

                        1. Living in Hawaii this can be answered in a couple of ways.

                          Things either come from here or they are imported from a LONG ways away. There might be some discussion about whether something grown on Hawaii island is 'local food' when you live on Oahu, after all its over 200 miles from Honolulu to Hilo. But compared to 2,500 miles to LA, thats close. About 80% of the food we eat here is imported from somewhere else, and that includes fruits and vegetables. Its just not economically feasible to compete with mainland food prices, although with increasing food costs that is starting to change, and markets now label local produce or milk or eggs. Generally they are about 30% to 50% more expensive than the imported.

                          The other answer is the regional cooking that has developed in Hawaii that is a fusion of Polynesian/Hawaiian, Asian, and Western cooking and has been referred to as "Local Food" since long before the idea of "locovore" came into common parlance.

                          "Local Food" in Hawaii specifically refers to our version of creole, a unique style born of the various cultures that came together somewhat in isolation from the root cultures. Two prime examples are saimin, a pretty much japanese broth with chinese noodles, and a variety of other ingredients, mostly of asian origin. Or the ubiquitous Loco Moko - A hamburger patty topped with a fried egg on a bed of white short grain rice all topped with brown gravy.

                          1. "When you think of local food, what do you think of?"

                            Often expensive food whose supposed benefits are frequently overstated or not actually a benefit of local per se.

                            "Do you aim to shop, eat locally?"

                            Where else would I shop and eat ;-) Assuming you meant "shop for and eat only locally grown food", no. Local for its own sake gets me what? If heirloom pork from Georgia is better than what's here, why not buy it from Georgia? I also believe in the power of specialization and relative advantage. Lots of experience raising pork in the South. Not so much around here.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: aynrandgirl

                              Could you elaborate on what you mean by "...supposed benefits are frequently overstated or not actually a benefit of local per se"?

                              1. re: carolinadawg

                                It is often stated that "local" means better tasting, better nutrition, better for the environment, better quality, etc. Any of those things might actually be true of a particular item, but it's not the "local" that makes it so. Nothing prevents a grower 5 states away from using the same techniques, and he might have better soil and climate than the local growers.

                                1. re: aynrandgirl

                                  The part of "local" that makes most of those things true is the time factor involved between picking and eating. Food harvested, sold and consumed within a few days, if not hours, will be better, in taste and nutrition, than food that may have many more days, if not weeks, between harvest and consumption.

                                  1. re: carolinadawg

                                    Yes, and local growers are likely to have varieties which are chosen for flavor rather than keeping qualities during transit. Large commercial growers tend to standardize on a few varieties.

                            2. To me it means locally grown/raised. It more important to me than organic just because I find it often tastes better. Whether its a tomato or corn, ones that are picked that day tastes better *to me* than ones shipped half way across the country.

                              Anyone read "Animal, Vegatable, Miracle"? Great read but unrealistic lifestyle for me right now.

                              1. Not much.

                                And probably less than "farm-to-table".

                                1. "Local' = anything made/grown/hunted/caught in my province (Ontario). AS far as choice goes, I'd take provincial over Canadian over global.

                                  This is more a result of the fact that nothing much grows in Canada for the most part