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Local Produce - or not?

OK, buy local, eat local (not sure I like the grammar in these phrases!).

So, I live in the Great White North and it's February and I want a tomato. They ship in some pretty good ones these days - not like vine-ripened, but pretty good and better than we could get 15 years ago, right?

So, am I wrecking the environment because of all the transportation resources that are dedicated to bringing me a few tomatoes? Or screwing over my local farmers?

Part of me wants to point out that the resources required to build and dispose of a Prius battery are far beyond those necessary to bring me a tomato in the winter.

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  1. Not sure you're hurting your local farmer, in the Great White North, in February. I bet their out of vine ripe tomatoes.

    1 Reply
    1. No "local" produce in NJ these days either. Have a no-frills place near me called Produce Junction. GREAT stuff, GREAT prices, and slightly in bulk. Was there a a few weeks ago and there at check-out were something called KUMATOS... "brown" tomatoes. In those little cardboard "boats". Canadian company, grown in Mexico, only $2/lb. Tomatoes are EXTREMELY nasty this time of year but took a chance on them... only $2. THEY WERE FABULOUS!! First thing I noticed after cutting one... they SMELLED like a real tomato. And the flavor is great. If you ever see them, I would recommend you giving them a try.

      I live where you can get THE BEST local produce when it's in season. Makes me crazy when farmers market and local road side stand puts up signs for LOCAL tomatoes and corn before Memorial Day?? That's just crazy talk. Corn is only INCHES tall in fields by then and a real fresh, right off the vine tomatoe does NOT exist until well into July, if you're lucky!

      1 Reply
      1. re: kseiverd

        I love Kumatos; I got some a few times from my local Walmart and they were delicious. I harvested some seeds and am going to try growing some this year in my garden.

        I live where produce is seasonal, not year round so how else would I get fresh veggies if I didn't buy what was available? Frozen & canned has their places but fresh will over rule 99.9% of the time...

      2. This is where the local thing begins to breakdown. It starts with the morning. Unless you live in Colombia or China, where do you get your local coffee or tea from? By the time we get to February, I guess all we're supposed to eat are shriveled root veg and cabbage. No lettuce and tomato for you! I would go ahead a buy that tomato and not worry about it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bkeats

          The "whole local thing" doesn't have to be all or nothing for it to have some value. How much value is debatable and/or a matter of personal conscience.
          I try to support local farmers, for many reasons - not all gustatory or environmental, either. I eat a lot of cabbage and root veg (still in pretty good shape) at this time of year for just that reason. I also can't resist a really nice looking CA artichoke. I always have citrus for cocktails. I have no problem with just trying and accepting that I'm not going to be perfect - that's usually the best anyone can really do anyway.

        2. I think its up to you. I choose not to buy some things even when I need them. Like a few days ago. For some reason a store near me carrys herbs that are grown in columbia and turkey. I would rather do with out fresh dill or mint then support that. Esp when I know that can be bought from closer sources. I don't support buying carrots from china when I can buy carrots right next to them for a 1lb more that are grown here.

          You have it tough and really can't support local because you have no local.

          1. Living in the Mid-Atlantic I try to buy local as much as I can, mainly because we are lucky to have such great produce and dairy here that it seems silly not to take advantage of it. I never see tomatoes I would want to eat in the winter but if you do it I would not sweat it. I have no problem buying produce that originated in Florida or Mexico - it seems logical to transport these things north out of season - Frozen Broccoli from China is bit much for me though - there I draw the line.

            Avocados and Citrus are in season right now in Florida and TX and are good quality and affordable. Not sure where your Tomatoes are coming from (S. America?) but they may look better than they taste if they were picked early and artificially ripened.

            this map is pretty neat

            it tells me I should be only eating mealy apples and root veg ;(
            but also tells me not too far down the interstate is citrus, spinach and avocados Yum.

            5 Replies
            1. re: JTPhilly

              A lot of our winter produce comes from Chile.

                  1. re: sandylc

                    I would rather go to the produce right now than have it come to me ;) Sunny Santiago sounds lovely right about now!

                    1. re: JTPhilly

                      Looks like they have quite a few earthquakes happening these days....

            2. I live in the frozen north and visit the winter farmers market which is full of many root vegetables and greens this time of year. I have frozen from the summer beans, roasted tomatoes, corn and berries.
              But I buy citrus fruit, melon from other placesas well as pineapple. There are still good apples stored locally and pears too.
              So I guess my answer is that I eat about 70% locally all year.
              You should do what pleases you.

              1. You, your self, are not "wrecking the environment". But why would you want a "fresh" tomato that has no flavor and has been gassed to get that pretty color. Not to mention the chemicals they were grown in. Blech. The only tomatoes worth eating this time of year are in the frozen tundra are ones you harvested or purchased over the summer and froze in various incarnations along with dehydrating some.

                3 Replies
                1. re: gourmanda

                  I'm sure you are right about the chemicals and this bothers me, too, but there are varieties of tomatoes now that are pretty darn good when picked greenish and shipped. Campari tomatoes taste great in the winter when there is nothing better around to compare them to!

                  1. re: gourmanda

                    Actually, kumatoes are delicious year round.

                    1. re: mcf

                      Wiukd LOVE to find them every time I go to Produce Junction!

                  2. I buy locally when I can. But I was rather surprised when I bough on the vine tomatoes at Meijer's and they mark them as grown in Michigan!

                    But really my buy local, eat local is really best those months when the local farmer's market is open.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Crockett67

                      Here in New England, we get tomatoes on the vine from Backyard Farms in Maine, and they're grown hydroponically, not in soil (so they're GMO-free, but not designated organic). They're pretty damn good in the middle of winter!


                      1. re: Crockett67

                        Many of the hydroponics are grown inside, so they can come from anywhere that is willing to pay for buildings, water, and heat. I haven't researched this, but I can only imagine what sort of chemical cocktail goes into these plants to grow them this way.

                        Yes, I still eat some of these. Probably shouldn't.

                        1. re: sandylc

                          Bushel Boy is a MN hydroponic brand. From the great white north so they aren't traveling too far to get to you

                          1. re: autumm

                            Yes, I know - I said something about hydroponics somewhere else in this thread....they do taste pretty good, but are pricey!

                        2. re: Crockett67

                          I too live in the Midwest...and this winter if I truly ate "seasonally and locally" I'd be subsisting on ice crystals and tree bark.

                          Thank goodness for canning and freezing!
                          And yeah, if you can find decent tasting hydroponically-grown produce...you go you!

                        3. The local vs shipped in is a lot more complicated than its proponents think, both in practice, and in theory.

                          In practice, I think a lot of people think about things like fruits and vegetables, maybe meat and dairy. They're not thinking about where the wheat in their bread, or their morning coffee and tea, or canned goods, or rice, or condiments were produced. For the more extreme locovore approach (within a 100 km type thing) there's the logstics of living in a city. You can't feed a city like New York or Toronto on food grown locally. You couldn't feed Rome at the height of the Roman empire locally, for that matter. And it's a *lot* easier to be a locavore in, say, southern California than in Canada in winter. As a friend of mine from rural Poland says of her childhood "Potatoes and cabbage were what we had, so potatoes and cabbage were what we ate."

                          From a theoretical perspective, it depends on the energy balance of the food - it can take more energy to produce the food than to ship it, so the main damage to the environment is the food itself. It can be better to produce a particular foodstuff in a climate and terrain suited to it and ship it, than to expend the resources to grow it somewhere it doesn't do well (or something else would do better). And concentrating solely on local stuff ignores any other environmental issues.

                          It's the same way that "organic" does not necessarily mean "healthier" or "has fewer pesticides" because the organic label restricts the *types* of pesticides used, but doesn't ban them, and non-synthetic pesticides sometimes needs more frequent applications to work as well.

                          1 Reply
                          1. I've occasionally bought cherry tomatoes grown in Mexico in winter and they're passable, probably because they can be harvested near ripe and packaged in the fields. However, I'm spoiled by the tomatoes I grow myself: even the tomatoes I get at the local farmers' markets don't come close to that just-picked taste, so I'm not going to be buying any off season.

                            Even if you live in the Great White North, there are seasons where the produce is grown: brussels sprouts shipped in from California are going to be better in fall/early winter when they come into season there, for example.

                            1. There's a good book called "How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything" which I found illuminating. I can't remember exactly what he says about tomatoes, sorry to say.

                              And my main takeaway from the 100-mile diet people is that to eat locally in the winter, you have to do a lot of work in the summer preserving food. It comes down to how dedicated you are -- and I'm not quite at the point where I want to spend four days canning tomatoes.