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I'll point out here up at the top that I've no earthly idea what the relative environmental impact of eating locally is. I subscribe to a community supported agriculture program, shipped to me (more or less; there are local drop-offs) each week by truck from up in Beaver county. I imagine that this weekly neighborhood delivery doesn't impact the carbon count too much, but I don't really know. I still think eating locally and in season is excellent advice, but for different reasons.

The main one is the food itself. I've found food to be generally better when harvested when ripe and eaten when in peak of season. This is pretty much impossible to do on an agribusiness scale with a lot of things: fruits and vegetables from distant shores have to be picked unripe so that they will have ripened (more or less) by the end of their journey, and the industrial growers have managed to breed varieties that can take the punishment of shipment. Unfortunately, they don't taste as good as, say, the heirloom strawberries from the patch that is slowly consuming my front yard. I get to wait until they're so ripe they hurt, and the difference is boggling.

The other nice thing about eating local foods are those varieties. We have a tremendous and varied resource in our agriculture communities around here, and it doesn't take much to find fantastic food that rarely seems to make it into the supermarket. As an example, the Northern Spy is a favorite apple varietal of mine: it makes a killer pie and stands up nicely to a good sharp cheddar cheese. I almost never see it in the groceries, but I only need to drive a dozen miles to get a half bushel of the things, uncoated with wax and beaming of autumn.

Of course, I only get to do that in the autumn. And the strawberries only last a few weeks. Every June, I am in terror of lettuce. But I eat pretty good food, and I enjoy what I eat.

That said, I also feel for the woman buying the wine. Wine is of a place, and while our little corner of the world can turn out some pretty good wine, I don't think we've really hit our stride yet.

Besides, if she wants to be drinking local, she really oughtta be drinking -beer-.

Ed Heath

You know, people talk about how we aren't paying the true cost of the things we do, like driving big SUV's and heating leaky houses, because the added pollution is not factored in. But we have a sense of the true costs, because it costs more to drive a big SUV or heat a leaky house than it does to drive a small, efficient car and so on. Fruits and veggies in the regular aisles cost less than locally grown stuff in the grocery store. You can do better at a farmer’s market, which implies Giant Eagle or Whole Foods is taking a considerable markup on the local stuff. But the conclusion I take away is that the lower wages in Chile are enough to offset the transportation cost of bringing grapes from Chile, even assuming it is higher than the cost of bringing grapes from a vineyard in New Castle (which probably has higher labor costs than in those in Chile). In other words, the cost of transporting grapes from Chile must not be *so* high as to overwhelm the other lower cost factors. So the relatively low cost process of transporting grapes from Chile implies it is being done efficiently enough that the amount of pollution generated per grape is probably being held down too. I will say, my sympathies are with the local farmers. Although why anyone would want to be a farmer in Pennsylvania is beyond me.

Sam M


Excellent points. But the thing about the wine is an interesting case in point. And the sort of thing that many have taken "Crunchy Con" Rod Dreher to task for. That is, he pretty much views these things in moral terms. And he can be pretty scathing when taking others to task for eating strawberries in December, or lettuce shipped in from Chile. But in the same breath, he will tell you how he has found a wonderful coffee roaster in NYC--who gets the beans from Africa, works his magic, then ships the finished product to Dreher in Dallas.

Well, if one's moral compass makes one bristle at eating strawberries in December--because they don't grow here in December--shouldn't that person either swear off coffee completely, or move where it grows?

I know that there are different levels of commitment. But very often, it seems like people pass judgement on others without taking a look at themselves.

It's easy as hell these days to eat organic. I mean, you can always find something good to eat at Whole Foods, right? If you have a lot of money. It's harder if you don't.

I have no interest in playing gotcha. But it does seem that a lot of people are very hard core about such things. When they are convenient.


Is it a matter of commitment? Very often these discrepancies have nothing to do with cost or inconvenience.

In my experience it simply a matter of how people view themselves in relationship to others. Whether it's Al Gore's use of private jets, John Edwards 48,000 sq home or my friend in Squirrel Hill who lives with her one child and husband in a 5 bedroom home that's 28 miles from where he'll work so she can be in the neighborhood with "culture," gushes over her HUGE Polynesian armoire and lamps from Morocco, her IKEA furniture AND the environmental wisdom of her CFLs. Feel free to substitute the wisdom of "Eat seasonal. Buy Local," I don't eat red meat, everything organic or something else in place of CFLs and you've described twenty other couples I've met in the same area.

None of these things is cheap, or purchased for convince and if confronted with the incongruity in their lifestyles and philosophies you get an answer in the form of "but I need these things" if you get an answer at all.

Truth is it's simply more often than not; I'm smarter, more important, my needs are greater, do as I say, not as I do - elitism.

These people are very committed; committed to making others carry the burden of keeping their lifestyles just the way they are their little "thing" they do is a fig-leaf for their consciences.

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