Updated: Oct 21, 2021
I don't know anyone who is opposed to this idea of local farms. It's maybe one of the most non-controversial ideas in this moment of polarization in our country. However, the reality is that less than 1% of food consumed in Austin is produced locally. On average, US produce travels 1,500 miles before reaching the end consumer. That's the exact distance from here to Washington DC. Most of us Texans chafe at the idea of laws coming from that far away, so why do we accept it as the status quo for our food?
Just the trucking of vegetables that far is incredibly energy intensive; this long journey also introduces plenty of opportunities for contamination. Most bagged greens in the grocery store have been bleached before bagging to prolong the shelf life. As we walk around the grocery store and look at all our plastic bagged produce and shiny box labels, we may see pictures of pastoral idealism....the perfect farm. Yet on some level, we must know that we are being sold a lot of s***. I know you know, but it bears reminding that industrial farming is not the food system that's going to support us into the future. It's actually the source of incredible environmental degradation and exploitative labor practices. Not only that, but here in Texas we've experienced food shortages twice in the last year because of the breakdown of our industrial food systems during crisis. The biggest critique I hear for local food is “small farms can't feed the world”. But that's okay! Because I'm literally not trying to feed the whole world, I'm just trying to feed my community and doing it in a way that is an asset, not an externality. Yes, I know this is not as sexy of an idea as Elon Musk's plan to farm on Mars, but if we could do a better job with this farming-on-Earth-thing, it would pay us dividends a lot sooner. Just saying!
I’m never going to tell you that eating locally is going to be the most convenient, because it’s not (yet). But there are so many other reasons to eat local. It's the triple bottom line. You are putting something that is healthier and fresher in your body. Your dollars are staying in your community, consequently enabling agriculture practices that are ethical. It's more than that, though. It’s really a very different relationship with food. You’ll start noticing little things like how winter kale tastes so different from spring kale. You’ll get giddy over zucchini coming into season because you miss it. It's really simple, but it’s also really radical when we shift our eating habits towards what is really nourishing from what is convenient and cheap. Put your money where your mouth is (literally), invest in your health, our environment, and our local economy. Let’s eat well together and understand where our food comes from and what its impact is in our world.