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Publisher: PublicAffairs
HARDCOVER | ISBN 978-1586489403
Pub date: June 05, 2012
Price: $26.99/30.00 Canada
258 pages

Excerpt 1

To a locavore, the future of food looks pretty much like its past: Farmers markets in every small town and city neighborhood where people rediscover the joys of true food and get reacquainted with one another. Seeds from farm-saved stocks rather than commercial producers. The rehabilitation of ancient "heirloom" cultivars developed before synthetic fertilizers and pesticides came along. The displacement of factory-made pesticides by traditional "natural" products based on plants and minerals, and of factory-made fertilizers by animal manure and rotating fodder crops such as clover and alfalfa. [...]

This stance, however, begs an obvious question. If this past golden age was so great, why were long distance trade in food, modern agricultural technologies, and modern production plants and animals developed? What if some heirloom varieties had lower yields because they were less resistant to diseases or to mechanical handling and transportation? Could it have been the case that seeds purchased from commercial suppliers offered access to superior germplasm and were of better quality, purity, and were available at more convenient times? Hasn't "natural" manure always been dirty, smelly, chock-full of pathogens, and requiring several months of composting? Could it have also been the case that supermarkets and large chains have displaced farmers markets because of their more convenient hours, better storage and parking conditions, greater mastery of logistics and inventory management, or better quality products and lower prices?

In the end, was our globalized food chain simply the result of colonial and corporate agri-business raiders who crushed small farmers, packers, and retailers the world over because they could? Or is it plausible that modern practices are but the latest developments in a long line of innovations the ultimate goal of which has always been to increase the accessibility, quality, reliability, and affordability of humanity's food supply?

Excerpt 2

Food production and distribution is a complex business, so let us begin by making the obvious point that not all "local" food is created equal and that some of it is perfectly fine with us.

For instance, New Hampshire maple syrup, California strawberries, Alaskan salmon and crabs, Washington apples, Florida oranges, Michigan cherries, and Iowa corn are among the best and most affordable in the world and, as a result, have long been enjoyed by nearby and distant consumers alike.

Competitively priced, high-quality seasonal local fruits and vegetables have also long been sought after by nearby grocers and restaurateurs alike. "Hobby" gardening is its own psychic reward and should not be judged by economic criteria. In isolated rural areas where land is cheap, game animals abundant and economic opportunities limited, it often makes perfect sense to cultivate large vegetable gardens along with fruit and nut trees; to keep animal coops while having a few grass-fed ruminants roam over the surrounding pastureland; and to supply one's pantry, root cellar and freezer with the results of hunting, fishing and harvesting wild food of various kinds. Local food items that might not be the most delicious or economical might also have other redeeming qualities, such as an orchard that survives on "pick-your-own" family outings or an otherwise average vineyard to which a gourmet restaurant has been added. Read more...



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