Is Eating Local Good for Poor Farmers?

The choice between eating cheap supermarket food versus being a sustainable locavore is not really as simple as it looks, at least if your goal is to make the world a better place.

You might think that an all-organic, all-local diet would be best for the environment, for your health, and for an ethical world economy—but not always. Maybe not even most of the time.

Sometimes food from halfway around the world has a smaller carbon footprint than food produced locally. Many poor farmers are “organic” because they simply can’t afford fertilizers and pesticides—in which case they probably can’t afford the “organic” certification, either.

Add in the issue of farm subsidies and their negative effects on third-world farmers and things start to get really complicated.

So should people who shop exclusively at farmers markets feel even more guilty than they probably already do? Overthinkers will be happy to learn that there is no consensus, though pretty much everyone agrees we should ditch the Farm Bill. (Except for the people who get money from the Farm Bill, of course.)


B. Traven is a Billfold reader (guess which one of you!) who sends us so many tips, we just had to give him a byline. Photo: Wikimedia Commons



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