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LOCAL Digest, February, 2012

LOCAL Digest, February, 2012

Eat LOCAL, Buy LOCAL, Save LOCAL

Want to know more about what's LOCAL and what LOCAL means in our community? This LOCAL DIGEST is a monthly discussion of all things LOCAL in North Central Florida, from food to economics to environment to community. LOCAL, you see, isn't just a way of buying or a way of eating: it's a whole system of the social, economic, and environmental values that mark the character of where we live and how we seek to improve the health of those values. It is a column about sustaining our region and what we love most about it.

LOCALDIGESTauthorBox9PTSo what does LOCAL mean anyhow? Well, it depends on which person, company, organization, or governmental department or agency you ask, and it depends on what you are talking about. For food, some define food produced in the state in which they live. Some say local food is only local if you can buy it directly from the person who grew or produced it. Others define it by food miles, that is, food should travel no more than a set number of miles – whether 30, 50, 100, 400, or some other number - from the farm it was produced on to where it was purchased, sometimes including distances traveled to and from any processor that may have added value to it and your trip to the farmers' market or the grocery store.

So, what should LOCAL mean to you? You decide. As you can see, not all LOCAL is created equal. It is up to you to become as educated as you can about what LOCAL means, think about what social, economic, and environmental factors are most important to you, your purchasing decisions, and your family, and then decide where your boundaries of LOCAL lie. Do not let someone's marketing campaign determine for you what LOCAL means.

Why is it important to take the time to do all this? Because local matters to the environment that has less damage with reduced food transportation; because local matters to the farmers you forge relationships with who grow your food; and because local matters to us all via the one thing we all think about at least once a day: money.

 

Shifting of mindset results in LOCAL $ impact

map-10-countyDid you know that the citizens of the ten-county area of North Central Florida – Alachua, Marion, Putnam, Bradford, Clay, Union, Columbia, Suwannee, Levy, and Gilchrist – spend over $4 billion per year eating at home and out? The majority of that money is spent on food that is not produced in this area; much of it is also spent at food service and retail businesses which are not locally- and independently-owned. (Locally- and independently-owned means that the business is privately-owned and not publicly-traded, is not part of a franchise, and the majority of business ownership resides in North Central Florida.)

If just a small shift were made here towards food produced in our region, it could have an exponential impact on our food system, our local economy, creating new jobs and job security, and bolstering our own food security. It would provide some shock absorption for market and energy supply fluctuations. And, because we are largely talking about local and independent business, the money stays within our community and circulates around, creating wealth by multiplying itself.

From such a shift: an estimated 1,592 jobs would be created. That means that $80 million dollars would be generated within our region and - when one considers that the local multiplier effect turns every $1 spent into $1.50-$2.50 for a net gain of $0.50-$1.50 - the total economic impact could be $120 million to as high as $200 million. From a mere 2% shift toward local food.

Money talks; often it speaks louder than the environment and the social benefits we have from more mature relationships with our food. But what it says in this case is that each of us votes every day with our dollars for what we want to see more of, whether that is more of the type of food we can buy at big-box bargain stores or more local farmers and their families growing food for our community in our community.

We may pay for local food with money from one of our pockets, but the industrial food system and processed foods are picking money from all our pockets. Add up the costs (including the hidden ones) and you will see that local food is a real bargain and, if you choose local food that is sustainably produced, it is a bargain for our bodies and our environment.

I know beans, but I also know Eat LOCAL. Buy LOCAL. Save LOCAL makes a lot of sense LOCAL-ly. 

Special thanks to Ed Brown and Stefanie Samara Hamblen, for their editorial help.  Data for this article comes from the 2010 US Census, 2009 USDA figures on food consumption, and UF/IFAS Food and Resource Economics Department.

Last modified onTuesday, 26 June 2012 15:40
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