When I saw that Time had a cover story, Eating Better Than Organic, about local food, I couldn't wait to read it. But now that I have, I must report that I'm disappointed with it. In some ways, it read like a really long blog post by someone who'd just found out about local food. The author, John Cloud, admits to being a big organic food buyer and begins to wonder about the flavor of local foods.
"[I]t makes sense that a snow pea grown by a local farmer and never refrigerated will retain more of its delicate leguminous flavor than one shipped in a frigid plane from Guatemala."
He then tastes local foods, interviews the usual subjects, such as John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, and visits Google's HQ in California to check out their local-only cafeteria, Café 150. Of course, he also joins his local CSA. (CSAs have "some lefty aspects" he warns. He mentions "lefty" twice in reference to CSAs, I'm not sure what makes a CSA particularly lefty, or righty, for that matter.) After a visit to his CSA though, he's confused again, because while the local food tastes great, he's "deflated to hear that I had ingested chemicals with my fruit and eggs." The free-range chickens whose eggs he's been enjoying feed on some conventionally-grown grain in addition to grass. Ultimately, he decides "I prefer local to organic, even with the concessions local farmers must make."
I suppose the article is good as an introduction to the topic (and for such a general audience as Time's) but I wish there'd been a bit more depth in it. There was no mention of several studies that question the viability of local as more energy-efficient than organic from a distance. (The argument being a solo farmer driving his diesel truck 300 miles round-trip to the market isn't kind on the environment than a single container ship bringing millions of grapes from Chile. Economies of scale stuff, you know?) There was also no discussion of the degradation of the label "organic", or any real examination of "sustainable" in the context of either organic or local. I know, it's for Time. I should be happy the issue's getting attention at this level, but still, it's so important, and I'd like to see it done a bit more justice. Especially if the article's going to run five pages!