Working for a Local Food System Revolution

Let’s push our supermarkets to carry more organic, locally grown food.
An editorial from MOTHER EARTH NEWS
February/March 2011
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Food is a hot topic these days. Roger Doiron, founder of Kitchen Gardeners International and author of Easy Kitchen Garden, Step by Step, says evidence of a kitchen garden revolution is everywhere:

“New food gardens are being planted in schoolyards across the country. Community gardens are in such high demand that some of them have waiting lists. Vegetable seed sales have risen sharply over the past few years. In urban and suburban areas, the revolution is not so much a grass-roots movement as a grass-roots removement, as more families replace patches of lawn with edibles.”  

But as safety, nutrition and food security concerns drive growing interest in homegrown, local, seasonal and organic eggs, meat, dairy products, produce and grains, contributing editor Barbara Pleasant raises an interesting issue: greenwashing in supermarkets. She reports:

“I saw a sign at my local supermarket that said, ‘Love local food? We do, too! Look for the signs ....’ 

“Unfortunately, the store did not have our famous local peaches — or anything else that was locally grown except some okra. But shoppers could have thought local food was available because of the misleading sign. On the other hand, I heard conversations among those in the store about how buying locally benefits the economy.  

“MOTHER EARTH NEWS has been a major ripple-maker, tossing lots of pebbles into the Big Pond over the years, so don’t forget to appreciate how beautiful those ripples are. The ‘village-ization’ of America is underway. I think we must question whether the companies that are trying to join this new food movement are delivering on their promises. I know some of them are. In North Carolina, there’s a regional supermarket chain, Ingles, that started carrying local dairy products way before it became cool. 

“Why doesn’t MOTHER EARTH NEWS set up an online page so readers and local growers’ organizations can report on how the stores in their areas are doing when it comes to supporting local farmers and food shoppers?” 

Sounds like a great idea, Barbara. How about it, readers? If you have information to report about how supermarkets in your area are — or are not — helping us build a better food system, please post it below. Include how the supermarket staff reacted when you asked for more local food options.

More kitchen gardeners growing some of their own food, more small-scale local growers, more farmers markets, more community supported agriculture programs — all of this activity bodes well for building a more secure system that delivers higher-quality food. But there’s no way around it — most of us still buy much of our food at the supermarket. If we want everyone to have access to better food (and local growers to thrive), then we need to tell our supermarkets we want more local and seasonal products. By reporting both the good news and the bad news about your local stores’ decisions, you can help create momentum for change.

Post a comment below.


Ryan Burt
4/4/2011 5:52:01 PM
Gouverneur NY has a Price Chopper and they don't have any "real" local produce in fact they have bad produce i took some pics of some produce and it was molding and was squishy and starting to just plain go bad and they had it all over there produce and were trying to sell it that way of you want real local produce don't shop Price Chopper

Sarah Brinkley
3/14/2011 12:39:24 PM
Here in Estacada, OR we have a grocery store called Harvest Market by Thriftway. It used to be just Thriftway, then they changed the name a few years back and I believe it was a greenwashing attempt. The name Harvest Market bring to my mind images of produce grown locally and organically. However, the only "local" thing they had was some squash from Troutdale, about 20 miles away. I was quite disappointed. As for organics, they offer about 12 or so different produce items, but I'd really like to see more. The produce manager was honest which is helpful, but didn't sound very enthusiastic about giving the info to me. I think "Harvest Market by Thriftway" could use a makeover.

Adria Beach
2/26/2011 8:11:35 AM
I shop and work at a Wegmans store in NYS. Homegrown season has been huge for Wegmans for decades.Each store deals individually with the growers closest to it. The assortment runs through all the fruits and vegetables grown in our area. I'm very excited about the organic research farm Wegmans has recently built in Canandaigua,NY to help our local growers develop and impliment organic practices in our short growing season. Produce from the research farm is available at their Canandaigua store in season.

2/12/2011 4:14:44 PM
The supermarket I regularly shop at, Giant, doesn't offer much in the way of local products. Mostly that means in the summer they offer "local" tomatoes (although they are often from New Jersey - 2 hours away - rather than from the MANY truly local farms right here in our immediate area or in Lancaster county aka Amish country which is about 30min away!) There's nothing local the rest of the year other than occasionally mushrooms labeled as local. I get my local products (eggs, milk, cheeses, produce) at either Frecon Farms, a small family business, or Kimberton Whole Foods, a local chain (not related to Whole Foods Markets). I also grow as much of my own produce as I can.

2/6/2011 12:26:05 PM
The Chapel Hill area of North Carolina has a great grocery store called Weaver Street Market. They have three locations, offer co-op memberships and locally produced versions of virutally all products.

Ross Lampert
2/3/2011 6:50:43 PM
We shop almost exclusively at Food Front Coop because of their large selection of the freshest seasonable produce. They have a lot of local and organic produce and also feature many other locally produced products such as cheese, milk, eggs, meat, and treats. Overall, a great place to shop.

Karen Bryant
1/31/2011 4:45:55 PM
We live in western NY and have a Wegman's grocery store. During the summer months they have numerous produce from local growers. Since we grow most of our own produce I don't buy too much from the grocery store, but it is nice to finally see it available.

1/30/2011 8:37:33 PM
We have Wegmans in NY. They talk a lot about local produce. However, after a big start, they have turned quite a few growers off leaving my local store without hardly any local produce in the 2010 season. Availability is very store dependent.

1/30/2011 1:28:25 PM
We have the good fortune of having 2 food stores that regularly carry local produce, poultry, meat and other local items. Shelton's Natural Food Store and Big John's Market are both located in the town of Healdsburg, California in beautiful Sonoma County. Shelton's also has it's own garden now so the produce is not only local but priced competitively. Both of these stores are supported by the local community which we hope guarantee their businesses thrive for many generations to come.

1/28/2011 4:48:28 AM
We live in north central Indiana near several small farming communities. Last summer our local supermarket had banners proclaiming locally grown produce was sold there. This is entirely possible but the banners were showing farms in southern Indiana, Illinois and Iowa! Local to me means maybe as far as 20-40 miles away. I asked the produce manager what they thought "local" meant. He agreed that Iowa was not "local" but the company provided the banners.

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