My apologies for the title of this post, as I did not know what to say to convey my own perspective when it comes to the locavore movement.
My own argument for eating local isn’t an environmental one, but rather one of taste. It is my opinion that smaller farms tend to pay more attention to details that allows them to grow better products. They don’t have the responsibility to fill mega-sized orders from the likes of the distributors of Wal-Mart and Safeway that requires them to cut techniques that relate to quality. Of course this is mere supposition on my part, as I know close to nil about actual farming.
I do realize that a fair amount of people eat local under the assumption that the practice of eating food locally produced is better for the environment. The logic seems pretty straightforward: it takes less gas to move cabbage from fifty miles away versus cabbage from five hundred miles away. This assumption may be incorrect. From Environmental Science and Technology:
it’s how food is produced, not how far it is transported, that matters most for global warming, according to new research published in ES&T. In fact, eating less red meat and dairy can be a more effective way to lower an average U.S. household’s food-related climate footprint than buying local food, says lead author Christopher Weber of Carnegie Mellon University.
Weber and colleague Scott Matthews, also of Carnegie Mellon, conducted a life-cycle assessment of greenhouse gases emitted during all stages of growing and transporting food consumed in the U.S. They found that transportation creates only 11% of the 8.1 metric tons (t) of greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) that an average U.S. household generates annually as a result of food consumption. The agricultural and industrial practices that go into growing and harvesting food are responsible for most (83%) of its greenhouse gas emissions.
Not being a scientist, nor trained in input–output life-cycle assessment, I cannot neither defend nor dispute their conclusions. it is, however, the most detailed scientific report that I’ve seen yet in regarding the local food movement.
Of course this doesn’t address the plethora of the other issues surrounding massive Ag-Farms, all of which should be considered when determining food choices. The recent Tomato recall is clear evidence of that. Issues surrounding the sustainability of the farming practices as well as the amount of nutrition supplied by these foods should also be considered.