The locavore trend has recently been getting media attention since First Lady Michelle Obama started an organic vegetable garden in the white house lawn, and enlisted local school children to help out with the planting. As a busy grad student often cooking for one, I’m not exactly a huge boon to the local veggie economy (there is only so much squash one person can consume) but I do enjoy a trip to our farmers market from time to time, and felt like I could relate to the dilemma in this slate article: what do people do with all that kale? I do make an effort to patronize local restaurants and shops and some of my work at local coffee places.
There are some things I really like about the buy local movement, and they resonate with some of my values as a Christian. When I can buy local, I think it improves my quality of life and makes me feel like I’m helping with environmental and social justice.
I connect with people. For example, going to the local place forces me to interact with a variety of people in my area. Even though most of my coffee shop time is spent buried in my laptop or frantically reading for seminar, I still recognize people and always at least have an exchange with the barista. I see signs and hear people talking about events around town. I feel connected to my larger community, and I interact with different people from the ones I see in church on Sunday. I think this kind of investment in local community is good.
I gain a sense of place. Of course, the Bible doesn’t have much to say directly about our age of Walmart, but place is an important aspect of the biblical text. The Promised Land is described, for instance, as a land of Milk and Honey and with long bunches of grapes. Images of olive trees, vineyards and shepherds appear throughout the bible. Since we value this local color, perhaps we should also take seriously our own. This is something I have thought a lot about since I moved to a new region in the country (the land of collards and peanuts?). I’m trying to appreciate what is unique and special about here.
Perhaps most importantly, buying local helps me to have an idea of where my food comes from, and who does the work to make it happen. We can never guarantee against exploitation, but buying local lowers the number of potentially exploitative middle people. Relatedly, it helps support the local economy and produce jobs here, which is especially important where I live, one of the poorest counties in the US. I also know that local food has not used too much energy getting from where it started to my table, so I am protecting resources and God’s creation, or at least abusing them less. These kinds of goals – protecting the land and looking out for the poor – are prominent themes in the Bible.
Maybe the more domestically skilled among us can share their local buying and cooking experiences, and how it connects them to justice or a sense of place.