Nanny State

Are Locavores Loco for Ripe Fruits? Or Just Plain Loco?


In a new regular column for The Wall Street Journal, former Reason Editor Virginia Postrel discusses what might be called the "locavore's dilemma":

Like tastemakers from Anna Wintour to Steve Jobs, [local food and best-selling author Michael] Pollan is just trying to persuade the public to share his sense of excellence and, with it, his willingness to pay [for fresh. locally grown produce]. The real problem with his prescriptions isn't economic elitism but produce xenophobia. The locavore ideal is a world without trade, not only beyond national borders but even from the next state: no Florida oranges in Colorado or California grapes in New Mexico, no Vidalia onions in New York or summer spinach in Georgia.

Fully realized, that ideal would eliminate one of the great culinary advances of the past half century. Unripe peaches notwithstanding, today's supermarket produce departments are modern marvels. American grocery shoppers have choices that would have been unimaginable only a few decades ago. When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, the only way to get fresh spinach or leaf lettuce was to plant a garden. Avocados were an exotic treat, asparagus came in a can, and pomegranates existed only in books….

The local-food movement's ideological parochialism would be dangerous if it were somehow enacted into law. But as persuasion, it tends to focus on the positive: the delights of local peaches and fresh cider, not the imagined evils of Chilean blueberries and prepeeled baby carrots. In this regard, it resembles the English Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century. William Morris, who is remembered today more for his wallpaper and book designs than for his social theories, didn't manage to overturn the industrial revolution. But he and his allies left a legacy of beautiful things. Pleasure is persuasive.

More here. Postrel has follow-up thoughts on possible locavore coercion at her Dynamist blog.

Just remember that in a world without produce shipped all over the place, there would be no Mackinaw Peaches ("like having a circus in your mouth!"):