Industrial agriculture doesn’t intend to lose any “market share” to small sustainable farmers without a fight. Our movement emerged under the term “organic.” That word was soon co-opted and today 80% of the food sold as “organic” is produced by one of the big corporate agribusinesses. Most of us aren’t even legally allowed to use the word “organic” anymore. And supermarkets have things like “organic Oreos.”
Informed consumers who have avoided being taken for a corporate organic ride have chosen to get their food locally. Many have joined CSAs. This is not lost on the industrial complex however.
So now we have grocery stores trying to imitate the CSA model and food conglomerates trucking in food that has no identity to a particular farm, underpricing local farmers and calling their stuff “local.” Sometimes the claims are just plain false and other times they’re merely misleading.
Bottom line: shake the hand that feeds you (to borrow some advice from Michael Pollan). To the extent possible, make sure that when you trade money for food, you place your money in the hand of the farmer who grew the food, not some middleman or corporate employee. If you shop at a farmer’s market, make sure the vendors you support are truly local. Ask about their farm. Find out if they are farmers or just middlemen/employees. Maybe sneak a look at their fingernails to see if you can spot any dirt under them.
The best way to assure that you’re getting what you want and expect out of “organic” and “local” food is to establish relationships with a few local farmers. In my experience most of them love getting to know their customers and take pleasure in helping them improve their diets and health.
In the meantime, beware of corporate CSAs and phony “local” food.