Clear As Mud

February 19, 2018

I was sitting down reviewing the previous content, and I realized one major topic I haven’t discussed with you is what we mean by local. There are a lot of differing opinions floating around regarding the definition of local, and in fact, to this day, there is still not one single definition of local in the context of agriculture. So I will add to the noise, but hopefully not the confusion, and try to define what we mean by local in the context of agriculture here at Know. While I am confident in the following definitions, I would encourage you to also conduct your own research and challenge anything you read here.


Local - A system of actions that allows for the unimpeded continuation of access to adequate quantities of healthy food for the entirety of a community (Dodds, Holmes, Arunsopha, Chin, Le, Maung, & Shum, 2014; Sbicca, 2015; Holland, 2016).


Sustainable - The ability to maintain, or endure indefinitely. Therefore, encompassing environmental, social and economic impacts within a community.


Organic - A production system that sustains the health of soil, ecosystems, and people. It relies on ecological process, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects” (as cited in Dunn et al., 2014, p. 56).


I want to spend a few minutes unpacking the above definitions. So off the bat we need to address the fact that there are a lot of buzzwords and clichés surrounding the local food movement. First, local is not always synonymous with sustainable, high-quality, and organic. Speaking of sustainability, all this term means is having the ability to continue indefinitely. It is that simple. Every business, government, and institution that exists should embrace this concept. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with being a tree-hugging, solar-powered, unshaven hippie. In fact, I would argue that it is inherently capitalistic in nature and goes hand in hand with being a responsible business owner.


The above definition of local implies that in order for agriculture to be considered as such, it must also be sustainable. This means agriculture should be practiced in a regenerative way that builds up soil quality and biodiversity while avoiding use of synthetic additives and wasteful strategies. Therefore, this philosophy requires that the farming practices used follow the principles of organic agriculture. So while these terms are not synonymous, they all rely upon each other and must all be present to ensure a complete system.


Lastly, I want to talk about the geographical constraints of local. We believe the local food movement is a food system focused on supporting the community in which it is grown, including both producers and consumers. This implies that local food is not strictly tied to a specific geographical location, rather it is based on the boundaries of a community.


I hope this has provided some clarity on what has become a very convoluted topic. As we go along, we will spend time looking at the specifics of these definitions and unpacking the practical applications of how to implement and support them.



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