Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Local movement hits a turnip in the road

Wanted: Enough locally grown hemp to weave a few nooses. Locavores are ready to string some beans after being conned by an opportunist or two with field mud on their boots.

It’s not uncommon for the growers who populate farmers markets to use natural fertilizers on their crops. A few, it seems, have been slinging BS of a different sort. Products they’ve been hawking as locally grown were actually harvested hundreds of miles away and warehoused, as several investigative reports have revealed.

The Pulitzer Prize-worthy piece was last week’s report by the NBC affiliate in Los Angeles. Reporters for the station bought produce at local farmers markets, then paid surprise visits to the farms where the items were purportedly being grown. Instead of planted fields, they found weed-covered lots.

Presented with the evidence, some of the lying growers ‘fessed up. Hence the hemp request. Locavores regard farmers markets as sacred grounds. These slicksters in overalls were desecrating the virtual birthplaces of the buy-local movement.

Refuting claims of a food being locally sourced has become downright popular in the United Kingdom. The London Mail focused on restaurants’ deceptions, noting that lambs supposedly from the countryside had actually been raised and butchered in New Zealand, on the other side of the globe. A locally made pie of locally grown apples actually came from a supermarket aisle, the story noted. And half the local cheeses it investigated were actually imported from other nations.

Don’t mash my turnips for saying this, but it’s not surprising that such a thing could happen. Sales of locally sourced foods are skyrocketing, in part because of the prices they can command.. The poor schlub who grows nothing but peanuts for a big multinational food processor doesn’t want to miss the opportunity.

Clearly safeguards will have to be implemented to verify the origins of what markets and restaurants sell as locally grown. That, unfortunately, flies in the face of the movement’s informality and almost bohemian sense.

But doing nothing will open the produce stalls to more charlatans, and that would certainly hamper the sea-salt change that’s taking place in America’s eating habits.

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