Author Topic: Thoughts on "Buying Local"  (Read 1018 times)

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Offline Little Feather

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Thoughts on "Buying Local"
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2013, 09:06:53 AM »
Robert's picture is interesting, and shows how hard it can be to 'buy
>local.' However, a person can find a good proportion of their food from
>local products anywhere in NYS.

That's why I said "New York City," not "New York State." But can someone
living on Manhattan Island really buy a wide selection of Manhattan-grown
products? And can EVERYONE on Manhattan Island really subsist largely on
Manhattan-grown products?

Back in the 1770's, Adam Smith talked about the effects that cities and
climates have on agriculture. Yes, you can grow wine grapes under glass in
Scotland and make good wine from them. No, you can't make money doing this
-- it's too expensive. Yes, you can grow anything you like inside a city.

No, you can't make money doing this except for products that are extremely
perishable or have extremely high transportation costs. The land is too
expensive for general farming, which means the products are too expensive,
and customers turn to products from further away whenever they can be
delivered to the city with comparable quality.

In the 1860's, Edmund Morris wrote in Ten Acres Enough that there was good
money to be had supplying perishable crops to the city if you got them
there in time, but he didn't actually have a farm in New York City, he
chose New Jersey, where land prices were low enough to make farming a going

Since transportation and refrigeration are so much better now, urban
farmers have to compete with other farmers who are even further afield, and
can deliver products that are as good as the ones grown more locally.

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A hundred years ago, there was a home-court advantage to local egg
producers, since most eggs were grown in the Midwest and shipped all over
the country by slow, unrefrigerated freight. No amount of candling can
guarantee that a rotten egg never slips through, once your supply of eggs
has a significant number of rotten eggs mixed in with it.

This gave a certain Russian-roulette aspect to the morning eggs that people didn't
like! For a couple of generations, local, "guaranteed fresh" eggs had a
premium market. These eggs simply weren't old enough to be rotten, so the
Russian-roulette aspect was gone. Then end-to-end refrigeration ended the
era where people expected to routinely receive rotten eggs, and the
"guaranteed fresh" market vanished, and it was no longer a good idea to
have a chicken farm in town, where high taxes and land prices and the
likelihood of being sued over noises and smells were serious problems.

-- Robert

Robert Plamondon