I initially found myself amused reading about all of the "local food" shenanigans reported in Kim Severson's front-page article, "A Locally Grown Diet With Fuss but No Muss," published in today's New York Times. It is funny that we have come to this point in our food culture where people would hire out personal gardeners, invest in an animal share, or plan a wedding with catered food grown within 100 miles of the altar. Why not poke fun at the trendiness of those who want their food local, but don't want to get their "hands dirty" farming. What a bunch of suckers.
But, does anyone want to get their hands dirty farming anyway, rich or poor? The entire food industry rests on this simple notion. Most Americans buy their food in supermarkets, and while I'm a great supporter of farmer's markets, they are insufficient to supply all of my food. My local farmer's market is open only from July to October, and when it is open, it operates only once a week. The produce is great, but there is no fish and little meat available
Interestingly, less than two weeks ago that the Times published another front page article on local food, focusing on the growing popularity of Community Supported Agriculture. Rather than tease these folks, who also apparently also want to eat local food without getting their hands dirty, the tone of the article was extraordinarily positive, painting those who have paid up for a summer's worth of locally grown vegetables as not only smart, but well-meaning and earnest.
But, as far as the consumer is concerned, is picking up a weekly box of a CSA share all that different than
having a box of locally grown fruit delivered by the FruitGuys to your
door? Or, are CSAs just another gimmick, too? Which one is the "lazy
locavore"? How about chefs like Dan Barber of Blue Hill, who are constantly
praised for sourcing locally grown ingredients. Are we now going to poke
fun at the people who would actually blow money on eating at Blue Hill?
I think I am most perplexed at the mention of folks who are hiring professionals to build and tend a vegetable plot in your backyard. There already exists an entire industry (landscaping and lawn service, anyone?) which is dedicated to doing all of the dirty work of gardening plants and cutting grass. People want to have a pristine yard, but not "muss" or "fuss" with gardening. I'm sure that this will not be an alien concept for the Times' suburban readership. After all, is hiring a professional gardener to weed, prune, and take care of a vegetable garden really any different than the myriad companies that are doing the same for plants and flowers right now in thousands of towns at this very moment? Paying someone to help grow your vegetables seems like a step forward in the right direction (at least compared to landscaping), not a gimmick.
Finally, Severson, who is herself a self-declared member of the "church of local food," wrote last year about her own friend and colleague who purchased half of a locally-grown heritage pig; yet this is basically the same thing she pokes fun at in her article. What better way could there be to support a farmer and also ensure the best quality of the meat you consume?
Excuse me while I eat my backyard-grown radishes.
Photo: New York Times.