How local is local?
There’s a lot of discussion about local food going on. But I often wonder, “How local is local?” Is it the “within 100 miles” local, featured in some of the eating challenges? Is it 300 miles? Or 500 miles? Or more?
When I talk about local food, I am actually talking about regional food. I live in Portland, Oregon and so, my region is the Pacific Northwest. This includes Oregon and Washington, as well as parts of Idaho and Northern California. It could also conceivably include lower British Columbia. So a fairly large geographic swath.
I also include foods which are not grown locally–like coffee–but which are processed locally in my “local” foods. I get my coffee through my neighborhood food buying club. It’s shade-grown, fair-trade, organic goodness, roasted locally in Eugene, Oregon. My local eggs also come through the food buying club, but across state lines, since my egg farmer is based in Ridgefield, Washington. And my beef comes from even farther afield, from one of my oldest friend’s family farm in Eastern Washington.
So definitely not a purist, at least by some of the more rigorous definitions of “local.” But headed in the right direction, I think.
When my husband and I started Portland Local Food.com, we wanted to make sure people understood that making healthier food choices doesn’t mean you have to go from fast food to raw food overnight—or ever. Our extended family is made up of omnivores at various points along the local/sustainable/organic continuum and we see every step someone takes toward healthier eating as positive and deserving of support. It’s not an “all-or-nothing” proposition.
We feel the same way about “local.” Fewer miles traveled from field to fork is good, but within reason and achievable. It’s not sustainable eating if it can’t be sustained. So, in this blog, I will be erring on the generous side of local. Call it Local+