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What is local? Is it really that important?

Updated: Nov 13, 2019








Local is not a term that can be defined by a singular definition, and it has been described using a wide range of distances depending upon its locale.


It is quite possible that local can be sustainable and also that sustainable doesn’t have to be local.


This term has been tossed around and transformed into a pair of dice that can be rolled and return many different outcomes depending upon the audience and who is providing the education (Delind, 2010).


When looking at what makes a system sustainable one must consideration the components of an agricultural system that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions along with destruction of soils and other biota.


Local or not, if the practices been implemented are unsustainable and creating destruction of habitat and the environment, then it truly doesn’t matter how close or far away the foodshed boundaries are drawn.


When looking specifically at the carbon emission found in agricultural production it is easy to see that the emissions related to transportation are just one component of agricultural pollution and that chemical applications, cold storage, and the degradation of soils hold a great deal of weight when looking at the sustainability of a system (Born & Purcell, 2006).


When thinking about the ideal blend of local and external food sources that I would like to see in my community, it is easy to lean towards the exclusion of all external food sources and to encourage only those items that can be produced within my bioregion.


While the "local" movement is usually focused more on food choices, it is also something we can contemplate with all of the other materials we bring into our lives.




Creating a regenerative landscape requires an upfront investment of resources.


These resources may require a level of emissions to bring them to the site, but after the landscape is established, there is an abundance of return on investment.


The question that we would like to leave you with is, if we are going to invest into creating something new, what is the best way to allocate these types of resources to have the greatest positive impact even if they are considered "unsustainable"?


Born, B., & Purcell, M. (2006). Avoiding the Local Trap: Scale and Food Systems in Planning Research. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 26(2), 195–207. https://doi.org/10.1177/0739456X06291389


DeLind, L. B. (2011). Are local food and the local food movement taking us where we want to go? Or are we hitching our wagons to the wrong stars? Agriculture and Human Values, 28(2), 273–283. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-010-9263-0


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