Why go local?

WhyI've heard a variety reasons why there is so much interest in local consumption these days, especially as it relates to local food. Slow Food USA sums up most of the reasons I have come across in there mission statement; "Slow Food USA envisions a future food system that is based on the principles of high quality and taste, environmental sustainability, and social justice – in essence, a food system that is good, clean, and fair."

I've been interested to see that among "foodies", this bias toward local being better is not a given. See Heath Putnam's riff on the subject here (hat tip to From the Back Kitchen). Heath grows wooly pigs in Reardan, WA, but laments that many folks in California don't want to buy his pigs because they aren't local. In response and out of frustration he pushes back on this local food logic of higher quality, arguing that local does not necessarily equate to better.

On the way to challenging the quality question Heath takes a shot at the sustainability issue as well. Could it be that shipping thousands of pounds of food using one truck over a long distance is more environmentally sustainable than having dozens of local farmers all driving their own cars to market with small payloads, and running their farms without the efficiencies of the larger farms?

He doesn't question the social justice and fairness issue, but there are good arguments out there that local isn't necessarily more just. Someone might contend that our large economy of food and other stuff systematically lifts poor people from around the world out of poverty and creates efficiencies that are better for animals and people.

For me, and I don't presume to speak for anyone else in the Goodwin house, none of the above reasons really get to the heart of what has drawn us into this local consumption experiment. I could convincingly lose all of the above arguments, which I don't think I would, and I still would be just as hopeful about this journey on the road less traveled. The sustainability and quality conversations have been a suprising benefit. As we get into these discussions we often find ourselves saying, "Oh, that's another good reason to buy local." The justice conversation was in the mix for us from the beginning but it's more than that.

The bottom line for me is that we are trying to re-weave the fabric of community that has been diminished by our patterns of consumption. We have been relationally adrift in an ocean of abundance. I knew we might be onto something when we sat down to eat one night early on in our experiment and we prayed as we always do, thanking God for our food. But we also spontaneously felt led to pray for all the people who played a part in providing us with the food. And for the first time in our lives we had a name, a picture in our minds, a friendship, to go with every ingredient on the table. That is definitely worth an Amen.

What about you? What drives you to "go local"? What appeals to you? What is satisfying about it? Or do you think that locavore logic is suspect? Do you think it is mostly nostalgia?