Buying and Living Local

We want to encourage a broad community conversation about food in the city. So every week until our Food in the City conference (May 25-26, 2012) we are going to offer up a “juicy” question about food and agriculture.

Last week we touched on the local food economy. We wanted to see what work and business opportunities in local food our readers would be interested in pursuing. We’re going to push a little deeper this week and explore the extent to which we’re willing and/or able to walk the talk when it comes to buying local food.

One of the common challenges we face in our daily lives is to find a balance between what we believe is ideally important and valuable, and what is achievable within our abilities, time and income.

As we have seen in previous posts, when it comes to food, many say the importance of making the local food choice is critical. For more and more people, local food is becoming increasingly valued.

We may choose to buy local food based on our values, but many of us will need to make trade-offs either in our budgets or in the time and effort it takes to get to local markets where local food is available. How big a priority is local food for us, and what do we have to give up in order to make local food the priority we say it is? Can we walk the talk?

So, our question to you this week is: Are you able and willing to pay the cost to buy local? What are you prepared to do, what changes do you need to make in your life to make the purchase of local food a top priority?

Join the conversation, post your comments, and share what you are thinking with others!

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About the Author
Larry Retzlaff
Larry Retzlaff is a Senior Planner with the City of Edmonton.
12 Comments
  1. Laura
    5 years ago

    It is unclear what is meant in this question by “local food”.

    The question presumes, as well, that local food is necessarily more expensive than imported food. However, that is not always true. There is a lot of fresh food available at farmers’ markets that is not more expensive than the older food at a chain grocery store.

    Further, although in some cases local food is, on a simple cost per pound basis, more expensive than imported food, local food is often a better value because it is fresh and less processed. In that sense, local food can be the smart option.

    The focus should not be about what changes citizens need to make in their lives to make local food a priority. The focus should be on what the City of Edmonton can do to facilitate citizen access to local foods.

  2. 5 years ago

    I agree, the question is posed within a “pay to play” framework. There are upwards of 100 community gardens within the City limits. Many of these gardens ask for very little financial investment. To eat local, folks only need to explore the diversity of options available.

    Perhaps municipal vacant land could be made available for lease to small businesses and residents within Edmonton. For fifty years this very program was administered through the Edmonton Horticultural Society. Perhaps it is time once again for interested Edmontonian’s to be able to secure their own local food supply.

  3. A
    5 years ago

    Agreed!!!! Why do we buy our tomatoes and cucumbers with a Mexico sticker on them..?

  4. Mary
    5 years ago

    How should the city facilitate citizen access? Don’t pave farms! Cities need farms close by. I shop at farmer’s mrkts year round, Italian Centre and now Blush Lane for AB (first, BC second) foods. Veg are fresher, tastier, last longer. I have been in a csa but find the markets more suitable to find exactly what I want. Bread frm local grains at Treestone, Prairie Mill. I’m not against imported foods, prob 80% local, 2o % citrus, olive oil, pasta, some cheeses, greens in winter. All the meat I buy is from local ranchers — that’s what Alberta is good at. Do I pay more for food? No! But I cook, and don’t buy pizza pops, frozen dinners, other convenience foods. My solution? Read labels, eat seasonally, cook, and be an aware consumer. Let the city know that urban sprawl is not a good, long term solution to growth. Cities need farmers.

  5. Nathan
    5 years ago

    Why do local foods have to be limited to fresh produce, meat, and bread that is only bought at farmers markets? What about frozen dinners and convenience foods that are locally owned and produced in Edmonton and Alberta. Bassili’s Best frozen dinners is an Edmonton owned business that attempts to use as many local ingredients as possible. Or what about Rocky Mountain Ready Made Meals which use ingredients mostly from Alberta and is owned and produced here in Edmonton? Tetsu Chef, Baba’s Own, Baba Jenny’s. All of these are convenience food products that can be bought in mainstream grocery stores and are owned and produced in Edmonton. Do they not count as being local as well? Just because it’s not fresh does not mean it’s not local.

  6. Gabriel
    5 years ago

    I think that the discussion should not simply be about what are we willing to pay to buy locally, but also it should be about reasonable access to buying local products year round. Is it reasonable to have farmers markets only on specific days once a week throughout the city or should they be daily and year round? Would we be happy having grocery stores open only one day a week? I think not – like wise access has to be part of the discussion otherwise we focus to much on the individual and not the community’s importance in the discussion.

  7. Amber
    5 years ago

    The epitome of “local” is when I have the means and the opportunity to walk somewhere as close as my backyard to pick what I would like to eat, when I am hungry. This may not be viable as a working city structure at this exact moment in time. However, it needs to be. There has to be a place in the city where food is abundant, and free. We have to move away from business models where money is the bottom line, and move towards community models, where unity is the bottom line. There must be unity before there is sustainability, because life is ultimately a system of circles. Balance comes when we are able to see the entire circle, because then we recognize that we are part of something, from the beginning to the end. We are not meant to be fragments, and buying locally is one way to repair a fragmented system. It’s important to know where our food comes from. I suggest that it is equally as important to remember the last rainstorm that fed the plant before we picked the fruit. Where are we going, and do we want to get there?

  8. Emile
    5 years ago

    In following this discussion re: “food and agriculture”, I find the focus centered on the local consumer and food while “agriculture” is totally lost in the chatter. Difficult for most consumers to recognize is the fact that we live in an area of some of the most productive soils in the world. Ok, don’t tune out … read on … There are very few areas of the world with soils that have such a high level of natural productivity potential. These soils took thousands of years to form under our unique climate which continues to support their productivity going forward. In Canada, we believe we have an endless amount of land and yes, this is true. But little of our land base has soils that are this productive….. And no, it’s not just DIRT … It’s a living microbial and organic mass that supports plant life … Unfortunately, driven by money, we decided that houses and pavement equals progress and continue to forget that soils (as part of the environment as a whole), are borrowed from our grandchildren to be used with respect. Accomodating urban desires for a “feel good” local food supply including community gardens is putting sugar coating over the bigger issue of land use. I encourage anyone participating in this food and agriculture debate to better understand the wonders of the soil beneath our feet as you’ll likely feel more “grounded” in the discussion.

  9. Paul Buhler
    5 years ago

    What is wrong with providing employment for Mexican farmers? Plus why is it assumed that imported food is processed more than local food.

  10. Chips Reid
    5 years ago

    My main interest outside of our regular composting for the last 20 years and trying to buy healthy fresh vegetables is to save the valuable farmed land in the NE of Edmonton from the Developers bulldozers!
    This is why I want to join in this conversation and do whatever I can to this end. please advise on things that need doing before Council sits this fall.

  11. Larry
    5 years ago

    question to you this week is: Are you able and willing to pay the cost to buy local? What are you prepared to do, what changes do you need to make in your life to make the purchase of local food a top priority?

    I already have the income to buy most of my food local and take the time to visit local farmers market as well as research local farmers on the internet who have local food for sale on their website.

    The point was made above as well, I would like an option to buy local food more than once a week

  12. […] in May, Transforming Edmonton sent a question out on its blog asking “Are you able and willing to pay the cost to buy local? What are you prepared to do, what changes do …” A trend in the answers that I noticed is that the majority of discussions around local food […]

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