Is eating locally the first “pet rock” of century?

24 Jul

There was a great article that came up a few days ago on the MPR website about smaller farms coming together to buy larger trucks to create delivery systems for themselves.  It is a story that needs to get read and talked about because distribution issues need to be solved for local eating to become more stable.  If anyone was at “Policy and a Pint” this last spring, it also came up in the conversation there.

The article (rightly) raises the question of financial viability of such an endeavor.  Unfortunately, the answer from one of the industry experts was shocking:

Jean Kinsey, however, thinks it’s a fad. Kinsey co-directs the Food Industry Center at the University of Minnesota. She said the interest in local food may last, but she’s skeptical that it will ever be a significant part of the market.

“It’s probably useful to know that organic food has been growing at double-digit rates for several years, and in total still occupies less than 3 percent of the total food sales,” Kinsey said.

Full article: Organic farmers hope trucks increase business

This to me is an example of how people who are in the food system, think about the food system.  Getting food locally is being dismissed as a small number.  This movement, really can’t amount to much.  I am sure these were some of the same thoughts that when large scale grocery stores started coming in to small towns and the butcher shops, the bakeries, and the farmers markets thought, well, this idea of a “grocery store” can’t work.  It is just a fad.  Possibly, when even the idea of feeding excess corn to cows started.  I bet there were a number of people in our government, on farms, and the general population that thought, this is just an idea that won’t work.  In comparison, yes, it is small, but, really, what is wrong with starting small?  (Last time I checked a couple of guys who started a small “computer company” and named it after a fruit were doing pretty well.)

The total food sales?  NOW, there I have a question.  Where is that research, and who was surveyed?  When was that research done?  Where was the research done?  I would love to know a lot more about that research.  Who funded the research?  What was the point of the research to begin with?  What questions were being asked?

The point of this article for me is to get people to stop talking about if this is a fad or not, and go on hard facts.  One fact:  this is not something new.  This idea of eating locally has been around forever.  it had a lot to do with how this country was founded and how this country ran for a very long time. Another fact: with human rights abuses, animal abuses, the massive rise in food allergies, bovine hormone injections (largely unlabeled) linked to human and bovine health risks, overfishing, topsoil erosionwater scarcity, and (unfortunately) more, we have got to change the way we get our food. The commodity food system is just so pervasive over the past 60 years that we have forgotten that we have the ability to try something a new and, to borrow a line from the computer guys who named their company after a fruit; to think differently.

I would like to ask all those that read this blog and support local family farms to send an email to Jean Kinsey and give her your feedback as to why you don’t think this is just a fad.  Again, we know the power of people being called to action.  Maybe, just maybe, that if more people speak up and say what is on their mind, those in the food industry might change the way they think about what is possible.

Jean Kinsey
Professor
Co-Director, The Food Industry Center

Email: jkinsey@umn.edu

317b Classroom Office Building
1994 Buford Avenue
St Paul, MN 55108

In the interest of being fair.  Please do not send her any mail that is negative.  I would like for people to share stories of how they eat and how they accomplish things locally.  Also, I personally have sent Jean and email and have informed her of this blog post.

3 Responses

  1. I suppose before you go after Ms. Kinsey, it might be useful to know what the context was in which she made her comment. I assume she was asked if she thought it was a fad, rather than just volunteering it in a negative way.

    Anyway, she said that interest will last (which would indicate to me that she doesn’t think it’s a fad, so the complaints might be better directed to the reporter who wrote the story). I also don’t think it’s a bad thing to say that organic – direct from farm food will make up just 3% of the total food system. That’s still a hell of a lot of people.

    Let’s be realistic. Will this kind of eating ever be a significant part of the food market? If by “significant” we mean 25% or more?

  2. Scott says:

    Just so everyone knows, I am not “going after” anyone. This post is merely to get conversation going, as in asking someone at a meeting a question, I am certain that a reporter would say use the phrase, “going after” if you are just inviting people to comment on someone point of view.

    This is a post that infomed people as to the article that is celebrating a small success by some people thinking outside the box, as well as asking some questions of others to elaborate on their points.

    Professor Kinsey did respond and stated the following : ” Thanks for letting me know what you are doing. Sorry about the few word selected for the broadcast that misrepresented my overall viewpoint.
    Jean Kinsey”

    In return I have invited her to draft a statment and elaborate on what her overall viewpoint is. I look forward to posting that and learning from her.

    More to come.

    PS. Jason, thanks for using your real name, I wish more people that post in blogs would use who they really are. Thanks.

  3. Good point, Scott. I didn’t mean “going after” in a negative way, as I didn’t take your post to mean that you wanted people to get all vigilante on her. So sorry for using that phrase.

    It would seem from the Professor’s initial comment to you that my thoughts were in the right direction — that she overall wasn’t saying that eating locally is a fad. Which is good, because I would be troubled if a professor had that opinion. As you clearly laid out, it’s hard to pass off something that’s been around forever as a “fad.”

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