I want to ditto the comments about there being a lot of
variables involved in the local vs imported discussion and
add a couple of stories for illustration:
1. While in Michigan as a student I worked a lot with
farmers' markets, food cooperatives, and fruit producing
farmers. In Michigan 40 acres of strawberries was a BIG
farm, but very small compared with California operations.
It was common to see local strawberries that were NOT field
cooled and specially packaged (farms were too small to
afford the hi-tech expense) arrive at the local farmers'
markets looking much worse than those that had received the
hi-tech treatment and arrived after 5 days on the road. How
2. This one is tangentially related:
One mid-fall, prime-apple-season morning at the farmers'
market in Detroit the coop's buyers trudged around and, not
thinking much about it, just bought the cheapest apples
without looking at them. When the returned to distribute
to all the folks who had ordered, they discovered the cases
of apples were imported from Australia - neatly waxed and
super packaged in cardboard dividers and paper wrapped. We
were all thoroughly grossed out and completely confused.
How in the world could those apples be cheaper than local
apples - especially at that time of year?
After several years I learned enough economic theory that I
finally understood how it was possible** (above and beyond
the fact that Australia's season's are reversed and they
were dumping the tail end of their stored crops), but that
doesn't mean I appreciate or approve of our book keeping
systems that have set up world businesses to think it makes
sense to do this and allows us to ignore the true costs of
wasting non-renewable resources.
[For those who are interested in the economics:
Basically, local sales are used to pay for all of a
company's fixed expenses. Then any additional production
that the local market can't absorb can be transported
elsewhere for sale at a much cheaper price. The transported
goods are only expected to cover any variable costs involved
and not any overhead.]
Some of you might have read EF Schumacher's 'Small is
Beautiful" some years back (early 70's?)... He puzzled over
this problem too. At one point he sat near a highway
overpass and watched the lorries (trucks) of competing
biscuit (cookie) companies located in different towns
shipping to their rival's town where the cookies would be
sold not only cheaper that the rival's in their home town,
but also cheaper than they would sell them for in their own
I feel we not only need to consider the nutritional impacts
of long-distance transported fresh food, but also the
significant waste of non-renewable resources that a
combination of a book keeping system, our society's greed
and the consumer's desire for diversity have allowed us to
perpetuate and intensify.
Oh well, my apologies for the sermon. Hope a few find it of