Do Farmers’ Markets Really Strengthen Local Is forex only for rich people? In my last post on this topic, I suggested that local food systems are not necessarily environmentally sound food systems. I also suggested that, if this were true, then we’d have to entertain the possibility that the community cohesion that develops around shared pride in sustainable food production is similarly suspect.
Of course, this is only a possibility. I have no numbers to draw on. Oftentimes, we have strong evidence that a farm is well deserving of a sustainable gold star. Many small farmers who practice an impressive level of transparency alleviate any lurking concerns about unsavory practices. In so doing, they ostensibly lay the basis for community development around shared pride in local ecological sustainability. It’s not always this way, but it’s likely quite common.
Such success, however, only raises another problem for the proposition that local food fosters a tighter community. Sustainably produced local food is not accessible by all. In general, only the elite few with the time and material resources to capitalize on such environmental munificence have the time and money to benefit from transparently sustainable farms. Patricia Allen, of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California-Santa Cruz, has pondered this problem extensively.
Localizing the food supply, in other words, automatically means that a small group of people will have exclusive influence over what the rest of the community has access to. What often follows, as a result, are local food systems in which a self-elected cohort of decision makers promotes a subjective vision of what a healthy, virtuous, and environmentally sound diet should look like. The rest just get what they’re given, stay away, or resist in ways that undermine the process of community development. The evidence is that localism is anything but liberatory for those traditionally marginalized.