part owner in the farm. Members pay a subscription fee and
receive a share of whatever the farm is harvesting at the time.
The qualities of local foods are rarely questioned, and are
usually assumed from the start to be more healthy and nutri-
tious. This seems to be the case at colleges. Our university
holds an annual creativity award, which in 2008 went to two
individuals proposing a “farm to university” dining pro-
gram. The proposal was selected because it was assumed to
benefit the local economy and environment, not because it
was shown to.
My university has a sustainability coordinator whose
main message, as far as I can tell, is to go out and tell
people to buy food grown locally...Why? What's bad
about tomatoes from Pennsylvania as opposed to Ohio?
—Richard Vedder, “The Real Reason College Costs So
Much,” Wall Street Journal , August 24-25, 2013, A9.
Before Michael Pollan, there was the author Wendell Berry,
who expressed an admiration for the traditional farming styles
used by the Amish and urged us to develop closer attach-
ments to local farms, promising a stronger local community
would blossom. Food, Berry claims, cannot be separated from
the region it is grown, for when you purchase a food item you
are indirectly approving of the economic system in which it
There is no controversy about an individual wanting to
develop an attachment to local agriculture. The controversy
begins when locavores attempt to argue that local foods are
superior in all ways to nonlocal foods. They claim that eating
local foods helps the local economy prosper. They claim it is
better for the environment. They claim local foods are health-
ier. They make all these claims with very little evidence. We
now observe these three controversies and then conclude with
our perspective of what local foods really represent.