On buying local: What difference are you making?

Greg Breining, author of Fishing Minnesota and Wild Shore, has an opinion piece in Sunday’s Star Tribune that questions traditional beliefs about the local-food movement. While the idea of buying local is big in Minnesota, and certainly popular this time of year, Breining maintains that it does not reap significant, tangible benefits in terms of saving energy and boosting the local economy.

Buying food locally is often touted as a way to save fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gases. Iowa State University reported in 2001 that, on average, an item of fresh produce travels more than 1,500 miles from farm to fork. If you cut that to 50 miles, wouldn’t you save a lot of fuel and carbon dioxide?
You might think so, but transportation accounts for surprisingly little of the greenhouse gas produced by the food industry — only 4 percent, according to Chris Weber, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

Small-farm owner Steve Calvin offers a counterpoint to Breining’s piece: “Does the local-food movement make a difference? It sure helps.”

Image credit: Amy Mingo and Wikimedia Commons.

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