As the movement towards buying and consuming “local” foods gains in popularity, a definition of what constitutes “local” comes to mind. One definition states “food grown in X miles of the consumer” with no clear definition of what those miles are. Another definition is within a local region e.g.: Willamette Valley or Rogue Valley, Oregon. And yet again, local may mean within one day of travel to the consumer, possibly up to 500 miles. Local does not, however, necessarily mean fresh, nutritious, or produced in a manner that is environmentally responsible.
Sustainable is the word referring to a food growing system that cares for the land it is grown on by growing crops organically and without chemicals, and is fresh and healthful. When considering freshness, buying sustainable should mean within one day of transport from farm to consumer. Consumers are best able to obtain sustainable food by cutting out the middle man and buying in co-ops, farmers markets, or through Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA). In all three consumer options the middle man is cut out of the purchasing process. Even though the consumer may pay a little bit more for the end product, there is comfort in knowing who grew the food, the philosophy of the grower, and provides support to the local economy by continuing to employ residents of the community.
Be aware while you are being conscientious of buying “local”. A little extra research and asking questions can make the difference in how you purchase and what you eat that supports an ethic you believe in.
For more information on sustainable food systems, log on to www.sustainabletable.org .