While Door County residents may have fierce and strict opinions on what defines a person as a local, local food is a little grayer. Before we try to define what local food really means, we first have to understand why the local food movement is so hip in the first place.
Beyond the fact that it’s cool to know exactly where that zucchini was grown, local food primarily addresses the concept of “food miles.” Food miles are the literal distance between the producer and the consumer. The greater the food miles, the more impact that transportation will have on the environment. Eating a tomato out of your backyard uses less energy and produces less carbon dioxide than the avocados that arrive from California by truck.
So local food is mostly about being green. But in doing that, consumers must also look at the production of the food and whether it aligns with the green movement as well.
My favorite example is my roommate when I was in college at the University of Iowa. We lived 30 miles south of a General Mills factory churning out equal parts Cap’n Crunch cereal and smog into the sky. Thirty miles, by most standards, would be considered local and my roommate always joked that he was “eating local” when he poured himself a bowl of cereal.
But that General Mills factory hardly pushed forward the green mission.
In looking at whether your local food is really fulfilling the goal that it should, you must also look at the methods used to produce the foods.