Monday, April 28, 2008

Going Agrarian

There is a great article in the Tuscaloosa News about many Alabamians returning to their agrarian roots during these lean times.

Lean Times, Local Bounty

For many, there’s not much doubt about the taste difference between a tomato plucked, sun-ripened, from the backyard, and one bounced in on a truck from halfway across the country.

Economies of scale may have tipped the balance in favor of large-scale grocery stores, but with food costs on the rise, some are swinging back toward the older model of eating homegrown.

“This model of eating trucked-in food does not make sense ecologically or economically. We raped the land by having a monoculture in the South for cotton. Right now, the amount of corn we grow throughout the country is ridiculous, most of it for biofuels and diesel or animal feed,” said Andrew Grace, a self-described foodie and advocate for locally grown food.

A study by the Leopold Center at the University of Iowa estimated that the average item on an American’s plate traveled 1,500 to 2,500 miles to get there, mostly in trucks burning $4-a-gallon diesel fuel. Corn drives the commodities market up, with the growing demand for ethanol. Soybean prices have risen because farmers who formerly planted it are switching to corn. The soybean demand hasn’t changed, but the supply has fallen. So prices go up.

“The thing about farmers markets, good local food has a way of generating its own demand,” he said. “People who’ve never thought about food are going to start questioning why the tomatoes they buy at [a grocery store] taste like cardboard. Even if you don’t have any ethical or environmental questions, local food just has this appeal.”


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