Eating local exists for a few reasons—in part, as a reaction to social disconnection from food supply. Just look at magazines such as Concrete Garden, or the 100-Mile Diet (which my favourite UVic Economics prof, Peter Kennedy, calls absolutely stupid).
Modern farming has plenty of problems, such as the pervasiveness of monoculture which limits biodiversity, or whatever pesticide causes colony collapse disorder in bees. Agribusiness firms such as Monsanto are considered evil giants because of the David and Goliath stories about them suing farmers for patent infringement, and it’s hard not to hate them for that.
Besides preventing alienation, we want local food to stick it to big business (one of my biggest regrets in life is watching Food, Inc. while eating dinner) and to eat better-tasting produce that wasn’t bred for shelf life.
Growing certain foods locally may be better for the environment, yes, but it obviously won’t be if you want to grow your own tropical fruit by burning fossil fuels to run a greenhouse. Almost no one who wants to live comfortably in urban communities has the time to farm successfully enough to fully feed themselves. If we want to maintain our level of productivity and wealth, we’ll let someone else grow the food. It’s just more efficient.
If we really wanted to make a dent in our emissions, we’d stop eating so much damn beef, and seriously control industrial CO2 output. However, these measures are a lot less romantic, and the majority of the population—not just the privileged few—would actually have to meaningfully change their own behaviours (God forbid).
I say grow your own food for fun, to better appreciate the work required, enjoy a healthy treat once in a while.
At least if we grew our own food, we may appreciate it more and stop dumping it in the trash (or composting it, since we’re West Coasters).