ColumnFor the love of local food.
There was a time when local food wasn’t fancy or special food, it was just food. People didn’t intentionally seek out food that came from nearby, it was simply all that they had.
But then came a globalized world with an abundance of choice, and dinners were no longer restricted to what came from the farm down the road. Our diets diversified and we had many more ingredients to experiment with. While this certainly made dinner more fun, it pushed the small, local farmer out and brought the large, industrial producer from across the country, or even the world, in. Because of our quest to expand what we had available to eat, we lost something in the process. We lost our relationship to local food, and instead of local food being a given, it became something that we had to intentionally seek out. We had to work harder to get something that was grown from down the road.
If you find it odd that apples from New Zealand can be cheaper than apples grown a few miles away, you are not alone.
I was thinking about this recently as I perused the wonderful space at Ploughboy, a market devoted to local foods in the small town of Salida, Colorado. Here, everything comes from nearby. Even the homemade granola and kombucha.
The entrance is inviting, signs boasting hand cut pasta and local grass-fed beef. Inside you’ll find locally made goat cheese and freshly baked spelt bread. If you wanted to transition to 100 percent locavore, this would be the place to start.
As I stood facing the market, behind me sat a Safeway, the parking lot a huge expanse of asphalt filled with four-wheeled monstrosities. In front of Ploughboy was a bike rack. If utopia could be found in a grocery store, this was certainly it. A place for the community to come and congregate, grab a deli item for lunch, and stock up on eggs from the nearby farm.
“I’m getting a restock of eggs from our three different farms tomorrow morning,” I overheard one of the Ploughboy staff tell a customer, listing off the names of the farms that the eggs would be coming from. I smiled.
There are certainly some foods that we have grown accustomed to that won’t be brought to us from local fields, but in a world where we’re trying to find ways to live more sustainably and more consciously, wouldn’t it be nice if our local food markets were just our regular food markets?
“But what about the people that can’t afford to eat like this?” you’ll say. You can blame that on agribusiness and an industry of food companies that have made food products cheaper than actual food, poisoning us in the process.
It’s not the slightly more expensive head of broccoli you should balk at. It’s the packaged potato chips made with partially hydrogenated oil. Sure the price tag may be less expensive in the food aisle, but that price tag isn’t taking into consideration more than $190 billion the U.S. spends on obesity-related healthcare costs every year.
For those of us who have the luxury to choose local, we have an obligation to, because it’s consumer demand and consumer demand alone that will change the system. Food products are created because there’s a market for them. Take that market away, and there’s nowhere for those food companies to sell to. Choose to eat better, not just because it’s better for you, but because it’s better for your community.
Do you dream of a world where the local food market is just the regular market? Then do everything in your power to get your food from close by. And maybe one day, more stores will feel a little more like Ploughboy.
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This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’ weekly column at EcoSalon: Foodie Underground, an exploration of what’s new and different in the underground movement, and how we make the topic of good food more accessible to everyone. More musings on the topic can be found at www.foodieunderground.com.