The Food Less Traveled
A fledgling “buy local” movement is inspiring a growing number of Americans to get more of their food from local sources and resist an increasingly globalized agriculture industry. Today produce travels an average of 1,500 to 2,500 miles to reach Americans’ plates, 25 percent farther than in 1980. Grapes, for example, make an average trek of 2,143 miles, according to a study by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Produce shipped from far afield often takes one to two weeks to get to grocery stores, losing freshness and flavor along the way. Environmental costs also mount as food travels further to reach its destination. The Leopold Center found that growing and transporting just 10 percent more food within Iowa would lead to an annual savings of 294,000 to 348,000 gallons of gasoline and 7 million to 7.9 million pounds of emissions. One positive sign of change throughout the U.S. is recent rapid growth in the number of farmers markets, up from 1,755 in 1994 to 3,137 last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.