Our top local chefs have long touted locally grown foods, from places like Jones Valley Urban Farm in Birmingham, Snow's Bend Farm in Tuscaloosa, or Cullman-grown sweet potatoes. Now big names like Wal-Mart are getting into the act. But exactly what constitutes "locally grown?" There's an interesting piece this week in USA today addressing that question:
As the article notes, in July, Wal-Mart pledged to source more local fruits and vegetables and noted, in a press release, that 20 percent of the fresh produce in its supercenters in the summer was already local, making Wal-Mart the "nation's largest purchaser of local produce." But that may include products that are shipped nationwide, as well. In Florida, for instance, that 20 percent would include any citrus grown in Florida even if it's also sold nationwide.
Wal-Mart considers anything local if it's grown in the same state as it's sold, says the USA Today story, "even if that's a state as big as Texas and the food comes from a farm half the size of Manhattan, as in the case of the 7,000-acre Ham Produce in North Carolina."
Whole Foods considers local to be anything produced within seven hours of one of its stores, but says most local producers are within 200 miles of a store. That explains why we see a "local" tag on heirloom tomatoes and pumpkins from South Carolina, I suppose.
USA Today cites a survey by The Hartman Group finding that 50 percent of consumers defined local as within 100 miles; 37 percent said within the same state. The survey also showed that 52 percent said it was important for them to buy local goods whenever possible.
For more on eating local:
- For an interesting look at two couples who have been trying to eat only food produced in Alabama, go to www.eatingalabama.org.
- For the adventures of an Atlanta resident trying to eat local: http://dustyskinandall.blogspot.com/
- gulfcoastlocalfood.org is the blog of a transplant to Mobile and their family's efforts to eat more locally and more sustainably.
- www.slowfoodbirmingham.com is the web site for the local chapter of Slow Food, an international organization that" links pleasure and food with awareness and responsibility" and often hosts events featuring local food producers.