Monday, September 13

Locavorism & Sustainability - Fact or Fiction?

The Chicago Tribune recently ran a interesting article on the battles over locavorism currently heating up.

It is an economic and cultural complex web of considerations, with some claiming the movement is,

"aimed at small, hobbyist and organic producers whose customers generally consist of affluent patrons at urban farmers markets.

In a hotly debated New York Times op-ed column last month, historian Stephen Budiansky attacked "locavore math," questioning the movement's assumptions about the energy used to grow and transport produce.

And economist Hiroko Shimizu and University of Toronto geographer Pierre Desrochers are finishing a 2011 book, tentatively called "In Praise of the 10,000 Mile Diet," that argues locavorism is a misleading marketing fad that, among other problems, ignores the threat it poses to the current affordability of food and to the economic health of developing countries."

To the elitist claim, some locavores counter to the growing accessibility of famrer's market food to lower income people through the Link Card program here in Chicago, which artists and activists from Experimental Station have helped spearhead.

Also, soon one key bit of very local data will be coming out from the research of Pamela Martin at the University of Chicago:

"Her team is still calculating the farms' energy use — including man hours, fertilizers, water and pesticides — but Martin said preliminary data suggest the organic urban farms in her study were at least as productive as conventional farms. Rural sustainable farms (those using organic or similar practices) yielded about half to 85 percent of the produce as conventional farms in the first year of data, she said, "but they might also use half the energy. We just don't know yet."

Alas, much of the question of sustainability is in the hard numbers....


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