The Boston Globe Magazine ran a perspective piece two weeks ago (I just got around to reading it yesterday) by Tom Keane about why locavores are bad for the environment and the economy. It was easily the worst article I have ever read about the subject. I honestly think it made me angrier than watching Glen Beck or anyone else on FOX "news". It kept me up all night thinking about the blissful visions he portrayed in his piece about industrial farm complexes. For me it was nightmarish visions of futuristic feed lots with thousands of pigs stuffed in cages, the foul, overwhelming smell of sulfur from massive lakes of feces and the dark cloud of flies that darkens the sky all day. Oh wait, that was the farm I saw somewhere in Ohio while driving to Chicago last week...
Mr. Keane's main points were:
-"the local food movement is "based on bad logic and bad economics, one that, widely adopted, would actually harm the environment and potentially impoverish millions."
-local products cost more because small, local farms are not as efficient as factory farms
-that self sustaining local economies are "rediculous" and "irrational" because "the hallmark of civilization has been specialization."
-farmers in New England should specilize only in things our region is "good for" like fishing and producing cranberries, maple syrup, and cheeses
-only buying locally will hurt Columbia and African coffee growing regions
-that to "to buy merely because something is local smacks of nativism and protectionism"
and my personal favorite...
-"local food is not greener food".
This is the link to his piece..."A Bitter Reality", you should read it.
Here is what I wrote in a letter to the editor and may have possibly sent directly to his personal email...is that appropriate?
To the Editor,
I recently read Tom Keane's perspective piece in the Globe's Sunday Magazine on June 28th and I'm sure I'm not the first to email about it. Unfortunately, the "Bitter Reality" is that he doesn't know what he is talking about. If he would take the time to talk to a local farmer he would understand how much peoples renewed interest in local foods has helped them. He mentioned items like lobsters and cranberries, but here in New England we are capable of producing a lot more than that. If we do not to support local farms who grow things other than cranberries (which don't grow throughout New England, the same goes for lobster too) small farms will not exist here in the future.
With Mr. Keane's logic, why would we buy potatoes from anywhere but Idaho? Or peaches that aren't from Georgia you ask? While it may be true that some climates are ideal for certain food production, to expect our farms to survive on cranberries, lobster, corn and tomatoes is ignorant. He clearly has no understanding of how food production works. To think that mega factory farms are "greener" than most local, small farms shows his total lack of understanding of basic farming concepts. It is these monoculture farming techniques that are destroying the farm land across our country. Depleting our soils of any nutrients while pumping if full of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides that will pollute them a generation.
Mr. Keanes's coffee growing country logic can work in reverse too. To buy a potato simply because its cheaper from Idaho rather than the one grown down the road and sold at the farm stand hurts the small time, local farmer. I don't think they can afford us not to purchase their goods either. I suppose they could pack up there tractor and drive out to Falmouth and trade it in for some lobster traps or a bog.
Further, Mr.Keane's microchip factory analogy is ridiculous. Clearly he gets some hot, sexy feeling from massive industrial farming complexes but has no real understanding of their implications. His comments on the "hallmark of civilization, specialization", has proven itself really well all across our country from Detroit to Gloucester. From cars to cod and everywhere in between.
Mr. Keane's article does nothing but continue the long held beliefs in this country that trade and the "market" are always what's best for the economy and our food system. If it is than why do people continue to starve around the globe, why are small farms closing everyday, increasing our unemployment, hurting our communities, and why are we one of the unhealthiest developed countries in the world? Something is clearly wrong with our entire food system and it is NOT caused by people who eat locally.