by Joe Grafton
Note: This post was written in conjunciton with the Loving Local: Celebrating the Flavors of Massachusetts blogathon, organized by the author of In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens. This week long blogging effort is intended to raise awareness about locally produced food and further strengthen the local food movement. We encourage our readers to donate to Mass Farmers Markets as this effort runs in conjunction with Farmers Market Week.
Local: It seems like that word is popping up everywhere these days. From food to finance, energy to retail, there is a growing cultural meme around local. Frankly, I’m not surprised. Local just makes sense and as time goes on, more and more economic impact studies prove the case that Local Works.
Being on the ground in the movement, I feel I have an inside perspective on how the movment has evolved and is evolving. That’s why Local Washing and its main perpetrators is of GRAVE concern to me. That’s why I believe that the groundswell around Local First efforts will soon lead to substantive funding from government and foundations. And that’s why I know that the movement owes a great deal of gratitude to Local Food advocates.
It seems to me that, of all the industries and aspects of Local, food is the one that is leading the way. I think in large part, this has to do with the amazing work done by pioneers like Michael Pollan, our own JJ Gonson and the creators of Food, Inc. I think it has to do with the way in which Big Agribusiness works, and how that makes people feel. I think it has to do with the way we feel about farmers.
But what I think it has to do with most is community. That’s ultimately what local is all about. Bringing us back together to do the things that worked for people in the past, but to do them in new ways that can last into the future.
And one of the hallmarks of community is coming together to eat. When people are buying, preparing and eating local food, they tend to feel better about the purchase because the feel connected to the food system and they tend to enjoy it more because it is fresher and it tastes better.
But let’s not just make a case based on warm fuzzy feelings. The truth is that if you look at the data, local food is exploding in our communities. Farmers Markets are growing at a staggering rate. Local food oriented businesses are springing up and expanding (Sherman Market, Dave’s Fresh Pasta, The Dairy Bar). The Boston Local Food Festival is coming in October, and is going to be HUGE. Heck, even Restaurant Week got into the act, offering a Local option through numerous participating restaurants.
Local Food has its challenges. Prices can be high. People don’t know how to cook and prepare food like they used to. (Note: both of those inhibit my personal consumption of local food). There are still a vast number of people who don’t ‘get it’ or are unaware of ‘it’ at all. But this much is clear to me…local food and its advocates, suppliers and pioneers are out in front. And I say to all of you early adopters out there: Thanks for leading the way, and get ready to make more room at the Local table because we’re coming in force behind you.