From Farm to Frying Pan
By Marcia Passos Duffy
Local food. Grown or raised locally, served
locally. It’s a way of thinking about food that's
as old as humans have been on this planet – back to when tribes picked berries
and hunted bison within walking (and dragging) distance of their tents or caves.
However, over the past 50 years it’s no secret our food is being “dragged” (or
rolled if you will) from great distances.
The average miles food travels to get on your plate? Fifteen hundred miles to
get from farm to supermarket -- I was shocked by this statistic.
In the little town where my ancestors grew up in Portugal food never traveled
more than a few steps from farm to frying pan. Even in 1978 when I visited my
great-grandfather there (who grew potatoes and raised sheep and goats) the idea
of visiting a grocery store every week was an alien concept. A typical dinner in
my great-grandfather’s simple home was a steak (from a cow slaughtered just
days before), potatoes dug up just that day, and eggs plucked right from his barn
attached to his house. Thirsty? Grab an urn and go down to the stream. Carry it
back balanced on your head. Everything just steps away.
We have inevitably lost this connection to our food. (Not that I wish to carry an
urn of water on my head every day into my kitchen to wash the dishes!) But the
miles our food – even our bottled water – is shipped verges on the absurd if not
the obscene. All this to get food laden with chemicals to survive the trip. Yet
even organic foods – a vast improvement nutritionally and environmentally –
takes a fleet of trucks & emissions to get to Eastern supermarkets since much of it
is grown on the West Coast. Yes, it’s organic. Is it good for you? Undoubtedly.
But is it good for the world? And what about local farmers? Why do we need to
go across the country or halfway around the world to get good food?
What You Can Do
Farmers markets are burgeoning throughout
the country – a strong sign that people care
about where their food comes from.
You can, like me, be a bit of a detective while
at the supermarket. Flip the bag of produce
over and sometimes you can see where it
comes from. Is there a bag of apples from
Chile sitting next to bag of apples from
Vermont? You make the choice.
You can’t always buy local – try buying New Hampshire bananas! – but when
given a choice of fruits and vegetables in season in your area why not select what’
s been picked just days ago rather than weeks (or months) ago? Why not make
the choice to support the people right in your backyard who labor to put food on
This week while at your supermarket, try buying one or two products that come
from your local area. Or visit your local farmers’ market. It’s these small choices
made everyday by people like you and me that can tip the scales in favor our
rural heritage and can save family farms from being plowed under into yet
another strip mall.
About the author:
Marcia Passos Duffy is the publisher and editor of The Heart of New England, an
online monthly magazine celebrating the unique character of northern New
is an agricultural act"
-- Wendell Berry
"A significant part of the pleasure
of eating is in one's accurate
consciousness of the lives and the
world from which the food