Main Course: The Turkey (food miles)
I've expressed reservations about the environmental aspects of the local food movement before. Local food puts money into the local economy, and that's a good thing. But one reason regions specialize is to take advantage of local resources, and these are often best suited to particular tasks. Areas which are marginal for oranges might be ideal for blueberries, for example. Locals should certainly buy local berries if they're lucky enough to live there, but why should they buy local oranges.
by unit of weight, ship and rail transport in particular are highly energy efficient [from Marginal Revolution]
The Food Mile measurement is helpful in clarifying the difference between, say, a local farm that is not organic and an organic farm that is not local. So, if you go to Whole Foods, they might have organic apples, shipped from a thousand miles away. Is this better than having pesticide-laced apples grown locally? [more here]
lamb raised on New Zealand's clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. [again, more]
Stuffing (you are what you eat)
I think that food is very important, and I worry that people forget about it in favor of making money and advancing their careers. I think that it is good to have a personal connection with what you eat, whether it's by preparing your meals yourself, eating vegetables from your garden, or supporting a local dairy farmer. I think that researching and practicing organic and sustainable farming techniques is an important social issue, and that the consumer has a responsibility to support farmers who use such techniques.So says Kate Lee, who helpfully provides a pragmatic list of what goes into food choices: money, taste, nutrition, time/convenience, and source. I hasten to add the social and moral dimensions.
Mashed Potatoes (supermarkets)
Maine's largest supermarket chain, Hannaford, announced it is building the first completely "green" supermarket. It will meet the highest industry environmental standards and will be the first "green" grocery store in the world. The design of the building includes solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling, energy efficient lighting, a recycling program and a rooftop garden designed to insulate and control rainwater. In addition, the contracting company building the new Hannaford in Augusta is seeking to recycle 95 percent of the old high school it is tearing down on the proposed site.
Gravy (the Farm Bill)
1. crop growth practices affect biodiversity, water use, and environmental health--locally and nationally;
2. chemical usage on crops in the form of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers has severe environmental consequences, the degree of which we need not elaborate here;
3. decisions about genetically modifying seeds, the role such seeds will play following genetic drift in coming years and decades, and the concomitant issues of control and power between agri-business and local farmers, have ramifications for all of us;
4. crop shipment, to, from and across America, affects our use of fossil fuels and output of greenhouse gases; and
5. food eating habits by Americans have an affect on future personal and public health issues, as in, what diseases they will face in the future.
Here's more on small farms and subsidies.
The Sides (organic movement)
DDT, pesticides, and fertilizer runoff helped agriculture recover from the devastation of the Dust Bowl, but the deadly side-effects trumpeted by Carson's Silent Spring signaled an ideological shift in America's thinking about its relationship with itself (that is, society and environment, or that great social construct, "wilderness"). After decades, organic farming is hitting the mainstream. Yet at the same time,
conventional farming is starting to look a lot like organic farming.
The earthworm-rich soils, so prized by organic farmers, are being achieved through contemporary no-till (or no-plough) techniques. In Australia, most farmers use rotation to get crops out of synchronisation with weeds and to return nutrients to the soil. Natural predators are being used to control pests, and companies such as Dow Chemical are producing safe, short-acting pesticides. In fact Dow's latest pesticide, Spinosad, is also happily used by organic farmers because it is naturally produced by bacteria. [more]
Pumpkin Pie (food labels)
Local. This is food grown by local farmers who dislike you because you're living in the subdivision that used to be prime farmland owned by their grandparents. Local food may be purchased at farm stands, which is where your children will someday be buying pot. If you buy local organic foods, you may skip dinner altogether and ascend directly to heaven, where you'll be greeted by 72 varietals of virgin olive oil.