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Eating locally grown produce is a fine thing in many ways. But it is not an end in itself, nor is it a virtue in itself.

Pvt. Anthony Smith is the type of guy who stands up for what he believes in. That's why he decided to hold his commanding officers accountable for punishing him and fellow soldiers after they refused to attend an evangelical Christian rock concert at the Fort Eustis military post in Virginia.

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Ironically, the source for the math in the "Math for Locavores" story is flawed, citing a study which I have seen many times in anti-locavore works. It says that 31.7% of the food energy is used in household storage and preparation. Even if that is true, it's probably higher in my house, since when I buy locally from a farmer, I reduce or eliminate other energy uses in the chart: 6.6% for commercial food service, 6.6% for packaging material, 16.4% for the processing industry, and even 3.7% for food retail, since the market stand doesn't have air conditioning, freezers, or even electric lights. Many farmers markets don't even have dedicated building or parking lots. In appendix B of the study, you'll see that much of the data is at least 15 years old, before the efficiencies Budiansky himself mentions. The researchers make odd assumptions. The household preparation figure is high because it includes all the hot water used in household sinks. (Don't these people use the sinks in their bathrooms?) The packaging figure is low, since it includes only packaging that could be "specifically attributable to food packaging," but not corrugated boxes and plastic wraps.

Please see my full response on my blog, which addresses some of his other claims, such as that people interested in local food systems don't care about the productivity of farms.

In general I agree with you. For those of us who live within walking distance of markets, the percentage of food energy that takes place in the home is even greater - or do I get to subtract walking and cycling calories? Do i also get to factor in using my own bags, returning egg cartons, berry containers, milk bottles?

For transportation, however, I have seen this hyperbolic tendency of locavores to discuss the energy needed to transport one head of lettuce (any kind of lettuce; also,i have a heard time including iceberg lettuce in this category - ugh!) across the country. Here's the thing: many things are transported across the miles, not just food, not just one kind of food, and not just one head or lettuce. There is an energy cost to be sure, but I want these calculations brought down to size.

Back to packaging: there needs to be a movement to change and reduce packaging. Plastic bags should be eliminated in favor of wax paper of other materials. ANYthing that comes in multiple layers of packing needs to offer a drop-off point to return the packaging to the manufacturer. Faced with the mountain of trash, the company will either find a way to reuse/recycle the material or they might think about the crap surrounding their products. Or just whine about the trash and look for a tax break, but at least the pain in the ass that is packaging might get some press.

Back to packaging: there needs to be a movement to change and reduce packaging. Plastic bags should be eliminated in favor of wax paper of other materials

I'm impressed with the way that they do it in France where most people bring their own bags. If you use the store`s bag you're charged for it.

I reuse my bags by either bringing them with me to the store on the next errand and by using them as garbage bags. Easy to do and makes sense. It also saves the store some expense and if more people did this it would reduce the overhead for the store. Since i'm the only one who does this here, it no doubt has little effect..

For those of us who live within walking distance of markets

One has to drive to either the farmer's market or the supermarket.

If the farmer's market is 20 miles away and the local grocery 1 mile which would you choose?

I'd go to the grocery store. Our farmer's market is located in town and the produce is sold by local farmers.

I think religion in the armed services should be Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

The troop story doesn't surprise me in the least. While I was in the Army, I had to endure similar things.

I remember when I first signed up and was going through in-processing, one of the chaplains warned us about what we put on our dog tags. He mentioned that chaplains were taught some basic life support skills and he blatantly stated that he'd be more likely to help a Christian soldier than one that didn't put down their religion if it came to a choice for him.

Amazing isn't it? He'd rather you lie about your religion on your dog tags - then he'd help you. What a "christian" attitude!

Truly.

I found that while there were a handful of chaplains I liked (who actually gave good advice, listened, and didn't push their religion). Most just tried to push their views on you.

My point is that this kind of thing is happening very often in our military. The problem is, as an enlisted soldier, you really don't know the full extent of your rights. You just know that you're supposed to follow your superior officers' orders. I wish I'd had the knowledge back then that I have today.

The problem is, as an enlisted soldier, you really don't know the full extent of your rights. You just know that you're supposed to follow your superior officers' orders.

This is unfortunate. Soldiers are supposed to be informed of their rights during basic training. If you disagree with the orders of a superior, things are supposed to go up the chain. It is true that if you are denied, you're supposed to follow the orders of your superior, but soldiers are duty bound to report egregious behavior (how the atrocities of the Iraq war were eventually exposed). Granted I've been out longer than you (probably), I also entered basic at the age of 24 (an age generally less impressionable then 18), so my perspective on service is different than most new service men and women. The other, less desirable, side is that the end of the draft meant that people who enlist are more likely to agree with the current environment of the military over being duty bound with potential differences of philosophy.

The other huge problem in that locavore article is safeguard against terrorism. Big industrial manufacture of food makes those fields perfect for terrorist targets.

Take this egg problem right now. If we were all locavores, this would be a non-issue, but instead we're recalling a billion eggs.

It's the same thing with contaminated food all over the place. It's a national security risk to grow our food like that.

Regarding the "Fort Useless" evangelical concert, I'm so glad that Smith decided to file a complaint. While there has been a very bad trend in the past years to push christianity - specifically the fundamentalist brand - on U.S. soldiers, there are actually a number of high ranking soldiers and sailors who truly believe that religion (and race, gender) should not be used as a divisive tool. The military pushes some high thinking - in theory. certainly when I was in basic training, those of us who did not attend religious services on Sunday mornings (When were the Jewish, Islamic, and Native American services held? I don't remember) got to clean the barracks. Yippee. At least when we were done, we were left alone.

As long as soldiers uphold their duty and report incidents like this, the crazies will have to bend to the rules. Unfortunately, not everyone reads Truthout. I wonder if this story made any headway in military publications and websites.

Sometimes that means growing vegetables in your backyard. Sometimes that means buying vegetables grown in California or Costa Rica.

Or sometimes it means buying vegetables from local farmers. I don't know how it works in other places, but here we have a Farmer's Market and many local farmers who sell their produce with stands in their yards. The vegetables from the local farmers taste a whole hell of a lot better than the vegetables from the stores which are trucked in from other places because if you pick a vegetable or fruit early and allow to ripen while shipping it never has the same full flavor as a vegetable or fruit that is allowed to ripen on the vine.

I don't always purchase veggies and fruit from local farmers and so end up eating store-bought tomatoes that have just a tad of tomato flavor in them which makes me appreciate even more the locally-grown produce.

Of course we don't have locally-grown bananas and other such fruits and veggies, so no choice there. But given a choice, I'll eat a locally-grown veggie any day of the week.

I also find it a lot more fun to shop at the local Farmer's Market than to shop in the supermarket.

But then I live in an area where all of this is possible. If one lives in somewhere like, say, New York City, this is not a viable option.

Interesting that the author writes from Leesburg Va, so I would assume that there are plenty of local farmers there. I wonder why he left out the option of buying produce from local farmers and only allowed for eating locally-grown produce from ones own garden?

Another advantage to purchasing locally is a selfish motive of wanting to promote local businesses which stimulate the local economy.

The problem with Math Lessons for Locavores is that it doesn't really do any math. Sure, he throws up figures, but they're a scattershot selection that doesn't really do a systematic comparison of typical local vs. nonlocal energy inputs. Actually showing mathematical calculations in a newspaper? Don't hold your breath.

I just finished the Creationisms Trojan horse video with Barbara Forrest - good stuff. Why Galileo and Darwin must be smiling down on her from heaven. ;~)

One questioner at the end did get Dr. Forrest to talk about students in public school classrooms questioning the validity of science, and Forrest does mention that we need to work this kind of thing into the training of our science teachers. Not brought up was the Alive movement on college campuses. These young adults are foot soldiers straight out of the Trojan Horse. If you go to the link you'll see some innocuous description of what they are. What they really are is a group of evangelical creationists who want to change academic culture. Individually I'm sure each member is a nice person, but as a group they are out to contribute as much ignorance to science as possible.

re: Math Lessons for Locavores By STEPHEN BUDIANSKY

re: "Cooking and running dishwashers, freezers and second or third refrigerators (more than 25 percent of American households have more than one) all add major hits. Indeed, households make up for 22 percent of all the energy expenditures in the United States."

I fail to see what relevance this statistic has to buying food locally. Whether one's lettuce comes from the back yard or another coast, both need to be kept cool until eating. Whether one's meat comes from New Zealand or the farmer down the road, most of us still need to cook it, and wash up after food preparation and consumption. Can we say 'non-sequiter?'

Like, OF COURSE there are potential energy savings in our food system practice all along the line, each more or less under our individual control. Is it virtuous to seek them? Well, yea, I think so. Is this the ONLY reason to prefer local providence? No, it is NOT.

re: "liberated tens of millions from backbreaking manual labor".

There is this odd perception that there is no honor in manual labor, and further that farming must of necessity either be backbreaking and unsatisfying, or industrialized, and concentrated in monoculture.

For all my adult life the 'common wisdom' has been that growing food is 'WORK NO AMERICAN wants to do. Thus the Bracero programs, and the Guest workers programs, and the wink at "work papers" issues in the field and food factories.

But this "common wisdom" has been false all along. There's something to be said for being active out doors in the cool of early morning, then again at dusk when the evening breeze rustles the fields. Swallows and dragonflies reel over the pond feasting on the evening hatch. The hillsides and all the light around them turn golden in the last warm rays of the sun. A farm is a really good work environment.

The PROBLEM, instead, is that labor producing healthy food has been paid at below minimum wage. Doing a good day's work in the outdoors is good work. It deserves respect and a living wage. But So much money goes into the 'value added's of the Industrial Agriculture model that we conclude 'there's nothing left' to pay the worker.

in 1980, 69% of your food dollar went to value added, processing and marketing services, 31% went to Farm value. In 2006, fully 81% of your food dollar goes to these "value added" services, with only 19% left for the Farm.

(http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodMarketingSystem/).

How can Mr. Budiansky call this "liberation" when we now find those 'liberated tens of millions' crowded into unhealthy tenements in every major city on the Earth with nothing to do but be angry and with no food but what US agribusiness has grown with subsidy and thus has surplus to dump.Do you understand that your tax dollars are paying to grow this corn and soy, and then your tax dollars are paying (on US flag carriers) to distribute it, and oh by the way, your tax dollars are paying the companies that grew it full price.

And to think! we achieved this through a horticultural model that is not renewable but rather depends upon ever increasing synthetic inputs, and ever decreasing food value. A food system designed EXPLICITLY to keep the cost of consumption low, at the expense of the farm sector, and to the benefit of marketing, packaging and distribution.

Surely We can do better than this. Local Food production is a good start. From community gardens and farmer's markets to small green-belt farms, some local food production capability is a really good thing to have, can go far to ameliorate problems of food deserts in our cities, and in those countries we are trying to help. The complex distribution system Mr. Budiansky seems so comfortable with, is far more fragile to short term glitches than he understands. Some local community food production capability is more than desirable, and it requires support of consumers.

OF COURSE, you can't get an outdoor grown sweet tangerine in North Dakota in December. THAT'S why we put one the each of the kid's Christmas Stockings, just as our parent's and their parent's (when they could), have done for generations. The Tangerine is SUPPOSED to be special cuz it came from so far away and for Christmas! Mr. Budiansky seems to suggest that just because we can, we might then not care to guide our food choices by locale and season, treating special treats from foreign lands as just that.

Finally,

re: "The statistics brandished by local-food advocates to support such doctrinaire assertions are always selective, usually misleading and often bogus."

in my humble opinion, such accusations require at minimum, that the accuser himself provide references for the great many statistics he bandies about with abandon.

I fail to see what relevance this statistic has to buying food locally.

The point he was making is that the locavores paint transportation costs as a big deal and as a major reason to buy locally. If I go to my local farmers market in my car 20 miles away, the energy costs for transportation may be a huge part of the cost of that food compared to buying at a store a mile away, that receives there produce by truck say from California.

He simply wants a little honesty in the debate.

The local market I buy from buys a lot of produce locally, it would be a huge waste of energy for me to drive across town say the 20 both ways to the farmers market burning say five dollars worth of gas.

Norm.

No. In the quote to which my 'relevancy' comment was clearly directed, he said nothing about trucking or the distance your farmer's market is, but spoke instead of household appliances.

He said: "Cooking and running dishwashers, freezers and second or third refrigerators (more than 25 percent of American households have more than one) all add major hits. Indeed, households make up for 22 percent of all the energy expenditures in the United States."

I said: "I fail to see what relevance this statistic has to buying food locally."

Then you say "He simply wants a little honesty in the debate."

The point I was making is that there is more than just transportation costs in a justification for local food production. Come on Norm. Ya can't say on the one hand, that those silly "locavores" make but one argument, then call all other arguments in support of local food production capability "dishonest". Well, you can, but there's no sport in such a response. I mean, the only reason to pretend that "the locavores" whoever they are, speak with one voice and sing only one tune, is to simplify the issue to the point of tired trivia.

The point I was making is that there is more than just transportation costs as a justification for local food production.

You're right the discussion has been simplified, but it has been the organic movement that oversimplifies. They needed a catch phrase and chose "food miles" so if the poor darlings are misunderstood it's their own damn fault.

In addition there have been a number of books, for example:

This one

All emphasizing the distance the food travels. It's a poor argument and the locavores or whatever the hell they are have no one to blame but themselves when someone points out how insignificant, in the scheme of things, the distance is.

Well, is it "The Locavores" or "the Organic Movement" to blame for over simplification?

Neither, it appears, wrote this article, nor ought be blamed for it's banal and timeworn attack. If distance is the only allowable thing we can discuss about the value of local food supply then to be sure the discussion is insignificant and I'll go do something else.

Don't tell me you don't enjoy food ripened with ammonia, irradiated meats, or some such things?

I know, in a country full of obese cancer victims, saying we need to eat more fresh vegetables and less chemicals and sugar is insanity.

There's something to be said for being active out doors in the cool of early morning, then again at dusk when the evening breeze rustles the fields. Swallows and dragonflies reel over the pond feasting on the evening hatch. The hillsides and all the light around them turn golden in the last warm rays of the sun. A farm is a really good work environment.

The PROBLEM, instead, is that labor producing healthy food has been paid at below minimum wage. Doing a good day's work in the outdoors is good work. It deserves respect and a living wage. -betty jo

hey, where do i sign up? :)

i just want to say, having done quite a bit of the kind of work she's describing, in a few different countries and states: it isn't by any stretch of the imagination always so beautifully bucolic, BUT: for anyone with a bit of the poet in their soul (as betty jo obviously has) there's enough truth in this statement to pass muster, as far as i'm concerned. too bad there aren't more poets in the fields, or doing the hiring. :(

also, about "minimum wage"- this means, by definition, NO EXCEPTIONS. why agricultural work has been an exception for so long in places that actually have a minimum wage law is beyond me. or rather, it's not beyond me but i don't want to think about it, it makes my species look bad. it's largely about race, i hate to be the one to break it to you. construction, another area where i have far too much experience, is much the same in many countries. let the darkies do it, and pay them whatever they'll put up with, screw the law. i'd be thrilled to work on betty jo's farm, which sounds like heaven on earth.

just one more thing that bugs me: even minimum wage is not a "living wage" in ANY country, unless your employer is providing room and board.

re: "it isn't by any stretch of the imagination always so beautifully bucolic."

The Plumber came out day before yesterday. He pulled the old pump from it's pipe in the well, then hooked up his trash pump to suck up the dead animal that had been fouling our house water for weeks. Last week we managed to snag 3 dead baby rabbits out of the well with a big old Bass fishing lure. But, it was clear that yet another critter had fallen into that narrow pipe that houses the pump, for despite numerous dosing with bleach, (the "well maybe it's just residual in the pipes" solution), the water smelled just absolutely disgusting. I've been fit to be tied about it.

It took three guys two hours. We carried the equipment on the tractor, for no pickup can navigate the steep path down into the gulch where the well resides. The well water is flowing clean and sweet smelling again. Oh man, it's those little things in life....

The Plumber also replaced the rusty old pipes connecting to the water lines. He says he loves the color of rust. It just goes ching ching into his cash register. We put fresh sediment filters and a fresh UV sterilization light in for a clean start. Wheh.

Being one's own utility company is part of being a farmer. It does have it's moments of unusual nterest fer sure.

Sometimes the best you can say about a day is that it feels so good for it to be over. I fear Commander Cody was in error. Some days you CAN have too much fun.

o much for heaven on earth. dead baby bunnies? ouch. maybe next time we could arrange some lolcats. :)

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