Ever since some study came out a while ago about the average distance most American food travels from the Farm/Ranch to our stores being 1500 miles, there has been a furor of debates – ranging from the age and ripeness of the items to the distribution carbon footprints, as well as its quality. As a result I have been attempting to find out more about this subject.
What I have discovered is that this report from Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Iowa (www.leopold.iastate.edu that apparently started all the debates), made the average based on Chicago, IL as the “model” urban area, being that it is centrally located in the United States. Which I guess is a decent approximation for a high-production state like California, where crops are grown from north to south. But what about Oklahoma, whose capital city is smack dab in the center of the state or us here in New Mexico?
I tried to see what the average travel miles are for New Mexico produce and came up with a big fat ZERO. The closest I could find was on California and it averaged 1200 miles for most fruit and vegetables and that nearly 270 million pounds of grapes arrive in California, most of them shipped from Chile to the Port of Los Angeles, a 5,900 mile journey. Which in and of itself shocked me to no end, since one of CA’s major exports is its farm produce and wines. See “Miles to California: How Far Has Your Food Traveled?“ @ http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/camiles/contents.asp for some eye opening details.
Depending on the food item and type of farm/ranch, the produce is often picked before it is ripe and ripened while in transit to its point of sale – our grocery stores. This is especially true of commercial/corporate produce farms, where much more than 50% utilize this “cost cutting” strategy and even more true of commercial greenhouse produce. As a side note: The most common ripening process is some kind of gas (yikes!) AND most of this produce is grown from GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) hybrid seed! Meats are also shipped here and there for final fattening, slaughter, purchasing and finally packaging – IF it happens to be raised here in the States or not.
Next I discovered that all this travel is to “process” the produce after it is harvested. Depending on the item, it travels from farm/ranch to various “plants” for a particular process. Like: cleaning; sorting; packaging; bulk buying; etc. - all before it reaches our store shelves!
Did you know?
- Hawaii imports 90% of its food.
- In 1866, 1,186 varieties of fruits and vegetables were produced in California. Today, California's farms produce only 350 commercial crops.
- Communities reap more economic benefits from the presence of small farms than they do from large ones. Studies have shown that small farms re-invest more money into local economies by purchasing feed, seed and other materials from local businesses, whereas large farms often order in bulk from distant companies. Large factory livestock farms also degrade local property values because of the intense odors they emit and other environmental problems they cause.
- A typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table.
- In the U.S., a wheat farmer can expect to receive about six cents of each dollar spent on a loaf of bread—approximately the cost of the wrapping.
- Farmers' markets enable farmers to keep 80 to 90 cents of each dollar spent by the consumer.
- About 1/3 of all U.S. farms are located within metropolitan areas, comprising 18% of total U.S. farmland.
In 2001 the US imported:
- 68.2% of our fish and shellfish
- 27.3 percent of confectionary products
- 21.4 percent of fruits, juices, and nuts
- 15.5 percent of vegetable oils
- 9.3 percent of red meat
To me locally grown food is better tasting, probably fresher and helps my community, instead of the big “Mega Buck, Mega Profit, Mega Quickly” mentality of corporate America. As a bonus I can control if I want organic food or super processed food, as well as help to preserve the diversity of our food sources.
Bottom line: Whether or not the 1,500-mile figure applies to everyone and everything, or how it's been misused by our media and environmental groups, it had better raise our consciousness about where our food comes from and how it is grown and processed.
Yes Virginia, it really matters what you buy, where it came from and where you buy it!
Read all the details @ http://www.scribd.com/doc/32912237/Food-Miles-and-What-This-Means-to-Us
From a 50 Something, soon to be rural homesteading, Prepper ;-}