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Local Foods Have Impact Beyond Kitchen Table

Amid increased promotion of organic foods and pushes to support local growers, an agricultural analyst and a New York City chef discuss the broader economic impact of buying local, in-season foods.

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  • TOM BEARDEN, NewsHour Correspondent:

    At the Mount Vernon farmers market in Alexandria, Virginia, earlier this week, shoppers were busy stocking up for the holiday.

  • FARMERS MARKET SELLER:

    I would go with a few Empire and then anything down beyond, the real tart ones.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    This market has been in operation for more than two decades. Others like it have been sprouting up at a rapid rate nationwide. In the most recent count from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are nearly 4,400 farmers markets in operation, more than double the number in 1994.

  • FARMERS MARKET SELLER:

    It's got a little spice in it.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    It's an idea that renowned chef Alice Waters has been advocating since 1971 at her restaurant, Chez Panisse.

  • ALICE WATERS, Owner, Chez Panisse:

    It's a way people have been eating since the beginning of time. I mean, just eating what is locally available, sharing it with their families, cooking it simply, eating in season.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    As the movement to eat local and sustainable food grows, so does the list of books prodding consumers to be aware of what it takes to get their food to the table. Aubrey King is the co-owner of Twin Springs Fruit Farm in Orrtanna, Pennsylvania, and a vendor at the Mount Vernon market.

  • AUBREY KING, Owner, Springs Fruit Farm:

    Our business has gone up dramatically this year, I think because the press is really playing up local — the "buy local," "buy fresh local," the low carbon footprint that buying local creates. Your stuff isn't shipped from New Zealand or the West Coast.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    But for a national grocery chain like Whole Foods, providing more locally grown foods is a delicate issue. Even though the natural foods giant has expanded the amount of local produce it carries, Whole Foods relies on shipments from larger farms all over the U.S. and abroad, especially for its federally certified organic produce.

    By contrast, all the products for sale at the Mount Vernon farmers market are grown and produced within a 125-mile radius.

  • JOAN SHANNON, Shopper:

    I like to support the local farmers. I grew up in Kansas, so I'm all for the farmer.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    But for many shoppers, buying locally means fresher, tastier food.

  • BONNIE DAVEY, Shopper:

    It's better to come closer to the source of the food, so you have fewer middlemen and fewer people getting their hands on the food and doing things to it. And so it's just fresher and better.

  • TOM BEARDEN:

    But the agribusiness industry and trade experts say buying locally raises other concerns. Produce and meats are sometimes more expensive at farmers markets than at the local supermarket, raising questions about affordability. And some are concerned that if the "buy local" movement expands even further, it might threaten the livelihood of poor farmers in other countries that depend on exports to the U.S. market.

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