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What We’re Reading: The Meaning of Local

May 2, 2016

As we begin the planting season, we are reflecting on “local.” Not surprisingly, we’ve been part of a lot of discussions about what “local” means. For us, it means Maine. When we consider the impact of farming on the local economies, we mean our communities in Maine.  We know there are a lot of other definitions out there, 250 miles from point of purchase being particularly popular. For Mainers, using Portland as the center, this extends to almost all of Maine and also to NH, MA, CT, RI, VT, and parts of NY. Using Bangor as a radius takes in all of northern Maine as well. Of course neither takes in California, where most of our competition comes from in terms of vegetables. Interestingly, the Bangor radius especially takes in part of Quebec, including the farming region along the St. Lawrence, which is another major source of competition for some Maine items such as beets, carrots, peppers or potatoes.


But of course, location isn’t all local is about. There is unfortunately Fake Local. There are increasing numbers of press reports on this phenomenon. “Consumers Rebel Against Non-Local Farms Posing As Local,” reviews a lot of this coverage and includes investigative reporting by Florida food critic Laura Reiley about fraudulent “local food” claims at Tampa area restaurants and farmers’ markets. This is an historical problem as well, as can be seen in the cases highlighted in Farm Fakes: A History of Fraudulent Food.

We are always hearing rumors about such and such a farmer who is buying those squash in from Arizona or some such when his/hers runs out. We don’t necessarily believe these stories, Mainers being the Mainers they are. We also admit we don’t have time to investigate the rumors; after all, we are out planting right here and now. These various articles suggest that what consumers need to do is “know your local farmers.” We certainly agree; surely can’t hurt to ask…Lakeside is definitely good to answer.


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