Why Buy Local?
We see profound value in local food. A small, but still significant, percentage of food we eat here in the dining halls comes from local sources.
There is something to be said for this in what it means practically for freshness and quality, in what it indicates about our commitment to the viability of the local working landscape, in how it often goes hand-in-hand with more small-scale and/or family run farms and businesses that utilize sustainable practices, and especially in what it represents in a industrial society that is increasingly dependent upon the corporate food economy to name just a few issues we find important.
Particularly, we find this last issue important because we so often forget the way industrialization has shaped our relationship with food, in urban and rural areas alike. Our seminar with John Elder this semester has focused on identifying the progressive environmental aspects of local stewardship and agrarian thinking.
We find the words of the noted author and agrarian Wendell Berry particularly apt as a jumping off point
Berry says: "We have got to remember that the great destructiveness of the industrial ago comes from a sort of division, a sort of divorce, in our economy, and therefore our consciousness, between production and consumption."
A 1983 statistic from Amory Lovins noted that the average food item in the US travels more that 1300 miles from farm to table, so to add to Berry's concern: there is an enormous geographical distance widening between us and our food. Another quote from Berry serves to show how this is a societal, economic, and geographic issue at the same time as an intensely personal issue:
Berry says: " most people now are living on the far side of a broken connection, and this is potentially catastrophic they are fed, clothed, and sheltered from sources towards which they feel no gratitude and exercise no responsibility."
So why buy local?
1. The food's fresh and natural: Middlebury College Dining Service's number one priority is quality. Local producers and processors can often meet these criteria without the need of added preservatives or other artificial ingredients. In short, local foods are natural and wholesome. The turkeys Dining Services purchases from Stonewood Farms for its Thanksgiving Dinner are fresh, never frozen.
2. It supports community values: Buying local is an investment in the community. Jon Rooney, dairy farmer from Monument Dairy said: "Every dollar you spend makes an impact. Why not make that impact local?" Since 1985, half of Vermont's dairy farms have failed.
Buying local also protects open space: Since 1992, 100,000 acres of Vermont farmland have turned into strip malls, roads, and houses. However, farming is more than the greenbelt it provides around our cities and towns. It is more than an aesthetic.
Buying local supports a way of life: The shelled eggs in the dining halls come from Maple Meadows Farm, located just 10 miles away in Salisbury. The current owners, George and Jackie Devoid, support their family on the farm that George's father began in 1946 with 400 chickens and a bike delivery route around Lake Dunmore. This is the farm's 56th year in operation.
And lastly, buying local supports environmentally-sensitive practices. Stan and Mary Pratt at Happy Valley Orchards told us that it is almost impossible to grow apples without spraying them with some sort of chemical pesticide. The Pratt's use the minimal amount of spray on their apples for two reasons: One- because pesticides are expensive. And two because the Pratt's know their neighbors and they feel responsible.
3. Because we can! Middlebury College Dining Services has a choice, and it chooses to buy local. This project celebrates what Dining Services has done to enable and foster local food connections.
Bringing education into the dining halls, we connect Middlebury students to faces and places, to the process and practice of eating. Hopefully, by doing this, we'll enable other students to be empowered by their own food choices and invite a more mindful consciousness into their daily practice of eating.