Monday, May 15, 2006

Eat Local Challenge? Try Fair Trade Too

Many food bloggers this month are taking the challenge to eat only locally-produced food. This Eat Local Challenge started in California, not a bad place to conduct this experiment. At first, I was intrigued but after only a few seconds of thought, I turned the idea down. You can read some compelling arguments on the subject by Barret in Chicago. I'd like to add two of my own:

1. One of the greatest things about growing up in a working-class immigrant neighborhood outside of Chicago was the great ethnic varieties of food all aorund me. I learned to appreciate Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Czechoslovakian (there was a Czechoslovakia at the time), Puerto Rican, German and Irish food just from the neighbors living on my block. In high school, our bake sales were like culinary anthropology lessons. I know what I know about food mainly because of that early exposure to dishes that came from far away.

2. Eating Locally is only noble to the degree it is insignificant. Now I am no apologist for Dole or The United Fruit Company! Certainly the Eat Local Challenge has within its scope a grass-roots tactic to weaken, or at least not support the exploitative and anti-ecological practices of global agribusiness. If it were possible to achieve this without simultaneously harming 3rd World farmers, I might be persuaded to try it. If Eating Locally really took off, it would have the side effect of 1st World protectionism. My answer is Fair Trade foods. Global (yes! global!) corporations of which Max Havelaar is only an example, sell coffee, mangoes, bananas, honey, rice, sugar, etc, etc. from small farming organizations in the "south" of the world that have a democratic structure, pay fair wages and produce food in an environmentally-friendly way. I think the French term, "Alter-mondialization" (roughly, "alternative globalization") is so much more attractive and viable than Anti-globalization. We can't move back to the pre-industrial past; let's move into the future the right way.

And besides, NOBODY'S taking away my coffee!


Blogger Kalyn said...

Interesting comments. I also wrote on my blog about how "eat local" might be a nice idea if you lived in California, but where I live there isn't much food grown locally.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous rowena said...

Right on about what you said regarding global eating. You've probabaly seen the Bottega del Mondo products at the supermarkets. I try to purchase these products whenever I can!

7:05 PM  
Blogger Lea said...

I agree with Kayln... nice if you live in a place with a perfect climate and perfect growing conditions... but living in a place like Florida, I would sentence myself to a life of nothing but citrus.. (even key limes are now grown in Mexico)... and deprive myself of things like the morels and peas the rest of the country is "shopping local" for.

9:12 PM  
Blogger Lotus Reads said...

I'm with you, Susan - fair trade foods certainly get my vote! Besides, I am not sure I could afford to eat only locally produced food as more than half of what I eat is dependent on ingredients available only in ethnic food stores. The 'Eat Local Challenge' is noble in its intentions however and I wish them the best!

1:09 PM  
Anonymous scott said...

Hi Susan. I think the problem is in the word "challenge," which makes it sound like something that a person might well fail. Almost nobody is going to be able, or willing, to give up imported goods, and I doubt that would be, in itself, a good thing.

But I do like the idea of thinking more about freshness, use of fossil fuels, foodmiles, etc., and this is one way to get people thinking that way. Cheap food is expensive, etc.

In my little corner of the world, we can now get very-locally (within 75 miles) produced vegetables, berries, mushrooms, cheeses, meat and poultry. And the farmers' markets here aren't thriving because people decided to take a challenge - they are thriving because they offer higher quality, freshness and a little human interaction with the people who grow the food.

11:14 PM  
Blogger Tracie B. said...

that's a compelling argument susan, and besides, how could i give up those trentino apples?

1:49 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hey Everybody, Thanks for sharing your oninions on this issue. Today Michael Pollen of the New York Times has a post (yeah somehow this guy gets to blog for NYT!) about Eating Locally. Check it out.

9:33 AM  
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8:17 PM  

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