Eat Local

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Notice of a local event, here in central Virginia, and a comment on the idea of local itself.

I'm currently teaching environmental history (summer school), and we're to the point where we're discussing modern food systems. We had a nice trip to Whole Foods last week, with a scavenger hunt for all things so-labeled:

organic (unsurprisingly, almost everything)
"natural" (unsurprisingly with a great range of justification and definition)
local (not so much, but cheese and wine)
non-GMO (only a few volunteered to label as such)

or otherwise.

You know, just to see what's out there. And now we're reading more on alternative food chains. All in the shadow of some of that Michael Pollan stuff blogged about before at this site, and in reference to the larger literature on food, agriculture, and society. (And with Marion Nestle's What to Eat on the side.)

Toward those points, in class we read the "No Bar Code" article by Pollan that was in Mother Jones last Spring (it's an excerpt from his book, and is about Joel Salatin, on which, see below). We also read an article by Bill McKibben called "Small World." (It doesn't appear to be available on-line.) McKibben wrote it a few years ago, discussing centralization and decentralization as philosophical, political, and cultural principles. He used the examples of local radio (against Clear Channel control) and a local foodshed diner system -- Farmers Diner -- pioneered in Vermont by Tod Murphy. I see too that Orion has an interview with Murphy in their May/June issue.

Doing this part of the class has kept me in the loop on local events, even as the very idea of local organization and community has also become a topic of study. Advocates note that local food chains offer cultural advantages (community, connection), health advantages (no preservatives, more freshness and vitality), and ethical advantages (possibility for better treatment of animals and the land). Now, of course, those are not guarantees -- you could, I suppose, have a local mass market feed lot, e.g., But, advocates argue, it's at least more possible.

One local event is the Eat Local to-do sponsored by the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (VICFA) at an area high school, the promo for which is pasted at the top of this post. The MC for the event is none other than Joel Salatin, he of Polyface Farms in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia (about 40 miles from U.Va.) and now of Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma notoriety. Another local event was last week. Will Allen, an urban agriculture leader from Wisconsin, was in town. He gave a talk. I didn't see it. Waiting for a report from my people. Actually, waiting to have "people" who can report to me. Fine, there will never be "my people." There, happy? And a third event, tied to the second, was a Groundbreaking Event for the Charlottesville Urban Farm, as noted here.

More notices as events warrant. Enjoy.

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