What does local really mean?

What is Local? – Food Conspiracy defines local as grown by a farm or produced by a company located within 200 miles of the Co-op. We do not include produce grown in Mexico even though that would technically be within 200 miles.

Fresh & Farm Direct – One of the Co-op’s longtime farms, Local farm Forever Yong Farm, picks fresh and delivers to the co-op within 24 hours 2 to 3 times a week. The Co-op cooperates with local producers, for example, local Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) yellow squash from Forever Yong Farm is $1.99/lb and organic summer squash from Mexico is $1.99/lb.  Despite the equal pricing to its California counterparts, local is purchased direct from the farm to the Co-op versus through a distributor meaning the farmer gets more of each dollar than if purchased through a distributor. John Rueb explains, “You aren’t paying more for the same product. You are paying more for a fresher high quality product.” In other words, locally grown tomatoes aren’t the same product as organic tomatoes grown in California and transported to Tucson.

Is Local Organically Grown?  In some cases, the Co-op pays the same or more for organic, and it is the Certified Naturally Grown local, which supports selling both at the same price. In other cases, a lower margin is applied to local products to sell all products at a comparable price. Some might suggest that because the Co-op’s local produce is not Certified Organic like the imported or California grown produce, it should not be priced similar to organics. Locally grown produce sold at the Co-op is Certified Naturally Grown—a certification that our local growers choose and we require. It is a national farmer-to-farmer certification and the standards are comparable to the National Organic Standards which is more affordable, fosters local networks and knowledge sharing among farmer peers. It is all of the standards of Certified Organic but geared towards small scale farmers plus the added benefit is small farms are working with intact diverse ecosystems.

Diversity & Flavor – Another local producer Jaime de Zubeldia of Sun Apiaries suggests “our small scale results in very high quality food and lots of flavor, but it is very hands-on. To get flavor we need higher quality feed at a much higher cost, or alternatively, is much harder to source locally.” Crop diversity means unique and diverse varieties can be found in small markets that cannot be found elsewhere.

Why Buy Local? Aside from the freshness, diversity and safety of food grown locally, more of your money stays in the community.  This year alone over $55,000 of local farm produce has been purchased by the Food Conspiracy.  Buying local encourages smaller production and diversification of crops, keeping our topsoil rich, healthy and in place.  Knowing where your food comes from enriches our mealtime experience and connection to place.