We’ve heard it over and over: eating local is good for the environment. Less travel, less toxins, supporting our farmers. It can’t get better than that… right?
A recent article from ScienceDaily outlined how Cleveland and his students launched a comprehensive study of just how “localized” the agrifood system for fruits and vegetables is in Santa Barbara County. And in turn, they wanted to determine the effects of this localization of the food system on greenhouse gas emissions and nutrition.
It seems like a good place to do it–Santa Barbara County ranks in the top 1 percent of counties in the United States in value of agricultural products, with 80 percent in produce.
The results of their research, conducted in 2009-10, were published in a recent copy of the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
The team found that more than 99 percent of the produce grown locally is exported, and more than 95 percent of the produce consumed is imported. The study also found that if all of the produce that they consumed was grown locally, it would lower greenhouse gas emissions less than 1 percent of total agrifood system emissions. Even more, there would be no effect on nutrition.
Additional research has shown that the transportation doesn’t cause as much greenhouse gasses compared to other parts of the agrifood life cycle. Thus, localization doesn’t necessarily make for better produce and food… nutritionally and environmentally.
However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not good at all. Supporting the local farmers is a key step for building community, if nothing else at all.
The team also wants to explore to what extent local farmers depend on imported labour.
Cleveland and his students will be hosting a workshop discussing their food system, looking at localization as a strategy to eventually bring it toward reducing greenhouse gasses, ensuring locals can enjoy local food, increasing their nutrition, and, of course, bringing together the community and strengthening the local economy.
Read the full article here.