Archive for May, 2009

This may seem like just another feel good story.

28 May

This was sent to me from the website Local Harvest. This is something I have been thinking about, and a number of others have been thinking about as well. So, I don’t know If i could have said this any better.
LocalHarvest Newsletter, May 28, 2009

photo by Chaffin Orchards

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

A year or so ago I heard a story that keeps coming back to me this spring. It was told by a cheesemaker who lives and farms a few miles out of town. He and his family make a number of beautiful sheep cheeses that are sold at select stores around the country. The story goes that this cheesemaker used to travel around, introducing his wares at new cheese shops. One day, he was offering samples at a store in Vermont, and talking with a customer who asked where he was from. Minnesota, he told her. They chatted for a minute more, and as she left she put a big piece of cheese in her cart, saying, I just love to support local farmers.

Steven had to shake his head for a minute. Vermont and Minnesota aren’t exactly in the same neighborhood. But he knew what the woman meant. She appreciates the real thing. She recognizes it when she sees it, and Steven and his cheeses were it.

For a while now, many of us have used the word ‘local’ as shorthand for food that meets a certain, somewhat ineffable quality standard. In this context, ‘local’ means something like this: This food is grown near here, on a human scale, by people who care deeply about the land and make thoughtful, conscientious choices for its stewardship. It is nutritionally intact and fantastic tasting. It thrives here, unpropped by excessive resources or technology. Its history is knowable and unsullied.
In other words, local goes way beyond geography. It is food we know in our bellies we can trust. Michael Pollan calls it real food. The LocalHarvest motto does too, by the way. Real Food. Real Farmers. Real community.

The day is coming when ‘local’ won’t be a reasonable shorthand for everything we mean when we say it. Already this month a subsidiary of one of the world’s largest multinational companies began marketing its conventionally grown and processed potato chips as “local”. I suspect we’ll see more such imposters in the future. Where there’s money to be made, charlatans will gather.

Local is becoming too small a word, just as organic has. Probably any label will eventually be taken over or outgrown. Fortunately, words don’t mean as much as direct experience. When the guy behind the sample table hands you a chunk of blue cheese on a toothpick and says, Here, try this. My wife and I made it from our sheep’s milk, pay attention. If everything in you says, Yes! pick up a big hunk and take it home with you.

As always, take good care and eat well,
Erin Barnett