Eating local is something that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days–you’ve heard it–look at labels, shop at farmers’ markets, etc, etc. I agree, I would rather have my food come from nearby than shipped halfway across the country where it had to be picked before ripening so it could hold up to the shipping process. I do shop at farmers’ markets, a fair amount, though mostly for the cheap stuff, since I can’t often afford $14/lb lamb and the such.
Where my issue with this is comes from who I’m supporting. I love the idea of supporting my local farmers’ over the huge coporate stores, but I don’t often shop in those, so when I am shopping at the farmers’ market, it is the mom and pop asian markets that are losing my business. I used to feel guilty when I went to the asian market, I don’t know how my duck was raised, I don’t know where my greens were grown. I know the tofu comes from the factory down the street, so that is nice (though it is 50 cents cheaper at the factory). For a while I had felt guilty buying at the asian mart, supporting the wrong people, not getting local produce. Then today I realized I am eating locally, a different kind of locally.
When I say I eat locally, I want it to mean I support my community. Whether this means that my greens are grown in Carnation or it means that I’m supporting the immigrant couple that run the Ethiopian store down the street (Piassa Market), I know that my money is staying here in Seattle. Maybe my lentils aren’t grown nearby, but the money I’m paying for them is paying for my neighborhood to remain diverse. Perhaps my bok choy comes from California, but the money I pay for it is going to pay to raise children here in Seattle. I may not know where my mango comes from, but I know that by eating locally that no company in Minnesota or Boston is hording my milk money.
I’m going to a dinner entitled “Eat Local” tonight. I’m interested in where the organizers feel these options lie on the spectrum of locality.