The things one finds online

Tech Item of the Day

It may seem odd, but a group of Virginia Tech grads recently established an online farmer’s market, seeking to replicate the ideas of the local food movement online.

Unfortunately, as cool as this idea might seem on the surface, it specifically violates the ideals of the local food movement. Local food is, you see, local. The idea behind the movement is to buy food from local producers, people less than 100 miles from where you live and when it is in season.

The reasons for buying local food are numerous and differ from person to person. For me, the central idea is one of economy. If I buy local food, my money goes to a local farm whose proprietors I know. If I am buying from these farmers, they are more likely to spend their own money locally, perhaps even by hiring local people to help them. If the money stays within 100 miles of where I live, it helps within 100 miles of where I live. From my view, I directly benefit from that kind of process, as does anyone else who lives within 100 miles of me.

Secondarily, buying locally has other benefits. One of the biggest costs of most grocery store food is the cost of transporting that food to the store. With some foods, that cost is as much as 90 percent of what we pay at the grocery. Further, this transportation cost helps increase the cost of gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel by consuming millions of gallons to move food sometimes thousands of miles. Eliminating such transportation costs can help reduce the cost of both food and fuel.

Additionally, many local farms engage in a kind of farming called polyculture wherein they grow a variety of crops and raise a variety of animals. Polyculture operations often rely on growing plants and raising animals that are native to the areas where they are located, thereby helping to increase the stability of local plant and animal diversity. Many polyculture operations are also essentially self-sustaining, using animal waste to fertilize crops and animal power to perform labor. This process helps increase the relative fertility of local farms, making those operations far more sustainable than any modern farming methods.

While an online site that allows local farms to sell their produce in a wider area may help those farms make more money, I wonder how it will help those farms remain sustainable. There is only so much produce that a farm can grow, and when that level is exceeded, artificial and often destructive methods must be used to increase the farm’s capacity, polyculture or no.

From my view, there is no benefit to this website. Try going to a real farmer’s market. If you are in the Dayton area, there is a fantastic one located downtown, and I can assure you the people who sell their products there are local.


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