In response to the article in last week's Pique ("Food for Thought" Sept.6, 2012), I must take this opportunity to comment as a local food advocate. I choose to eat local food for many reasons, and in no way do I think that it is the "panacea" to global famine issues!
I am not choosing local food as a way to help breast-feeding mothers in Rwanda, nor is it in response to banning DDT in favour of a large-scale malaria outbreak! These issues have more effective, and relevant solutions, I am sure.
I choose local food because it is a way I can play a political role in the food economy here in North America and spend my dollars, in the most direct way I can, in support of the health of myself, my community and the planet.
I choose local food, because it is better for the environment, especially if one takes the time to examine beyond simply transportation. In many cases, local food is smaller scale, resulting in crop diversity, less waste, and more sustainable practices. Small-scale farms are more ecologically similar to natural systems. This is in contrast to large, conventional monocultures, which are the ecological equivalent to a desert. Local, small-scale systems that support diversity, also practice rotation, which incorporate soil-building practices, and help build living ecosystems within an agricultural model.
Local, small-scale systems are less dependent on chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, even if not organic. In large, conventional monoculture systems, nitrogen fertilizers have a multitude of environmental impacts. The production of chemical fertilizers is a substantial carbon tax, and one that should be incorporated in the math when considering the "carbon-cost" of one's eating habits.
Additionally, these easily manufactured carbon laced nitrogen fertilizers are applied in excess and large-scale runoff creates ecological dead zones. Nitrification, acidification (which additionally aggravate the greenhouse effect) and habitat destruction are all ecological disasters that are a result of the industrialized food system.
As I lay my dollars down at the local farmer's market, I choose local, and organic when I can, as small-scale, local and organic is the best choice I can make in support of more ecological practices.
I choose to buy local food, as supporting local businesses, including farms, strengthens the local economy. Buying food from my local farmer's market is a community building activity.
Supporting a local food economy allows for me to have direct contact with the farmer, ask questions and get educated on their growing practices. By fostering this connection to where my food comes from, and more importantly who my food comes from I have more decision-making power than in the confusion, chaos and anonymity of the conventional agri-business conglomerate and I build a stronger community.