'Locally grown' food sounds great, but what does it mean?
By Julie Schmit, USA TODAY
Virginia farmer Rod Parker can walk into a grocery store 10 miles from his farm, 40 miles from it and even 100 miles from it and see his fresh produce marketed as "locally grown."
Some retailers even consider "locally grown" to be something produced a day's drive from the store, he says. Meanwhile, "I'm sure consumers think it's grown right down the road," says the owner of Parker Farms.
Nationwide, retailers from Wal-Mart to Whole Foods are increasingly devoting more shelf space to "locally grown" products including such things as fresh produce and Thanksgiving turkeys. Whole Foods, for one, now spends almost 22% of its produce budget on locally grown products, up from 15% four years ago, it says.
The "locally grown" label is part of retailers' push to tap into consumer desires for fresh and safe products that support small, local farmers and help the environment because they're not trucked so far. At least one consumer survey has showed that whether something is locally grown is now more important than whether it is organic (which many local products are not).
When producers can direct market their products to consumers it not only allows them to make that personal contact with them, but it normally let’s them get a better return on their hard work. However, this model of food production isn’t practical in all areas of this country. If everyone were forced to eat locally, several of the foods that my family enjoys would be nearly impossible to get. This in turn would make it difficult for us to eat a balanced diet year round. It is imperative for consumers to realize that not everything can be grown everywhere.