Saturday, November 04, 2006

On buying locally

When at the Farmer's Market ordering my grass-fed, free-range turkey for Thanksgiving this year, I took a good look at the farm's truck. It looked to me like a ratty old refrigerated farm truck. Now these guys were from Culpeper, only 70 miles or so from me. But I know lots of other farmers drive in from Pennsylvania and West Virginia for my farmer's market.

Which raises the question, at least in my head, are we really sure that buying locally saves that much energy?

If I were to, say, buy a turkey at the grocery store that was from Idaho, my guess is that it would have been slaughtered, frozen and sent to Virginia on a freight train the way most groceries are. On a per-bird basis, are we sure that would take more energy than the little refrigerated farm truck bringing in a few dozen birds from 70 miles away, or two states away?

I'm guessing there's something obvious that I'm missing here.



Anonymous said...

I don't know what the relative energy use is, but when the civilization falls apart and doesn't function, it will be nice to have local networks already set up.
Maybe what the answer is is that the "few dozen" are not a big enough load the it to be cost effective to use big companies to haul, so if you did away with the local trucks, you would in effect do away with small farms altogether.
The anwer, which is coming, is that the small farms should have trucks that run on locally produced, non-polluting, energy rather than foreign oil. As you know, my system of choice would be hydrogen, produced from water and solar energy or wind. A commercial hydrogen automobile will be available to the public (in the US and Japan) in 2008 from Honda. It happens to be a really cool looking sporty car, but can other vehicles be far behind???
Have alook at the car (concept version) at:

Anonymous said...

Similar Slate piece on buying organic.