[Market-farming] NYTimes.com: Food That Travels Well

STEVE GILMAN stevegilman at verizon.net
Thu Aug 9 09:38:18 EDT 2007


Hi All,

	Back in the last century, NJ -- The Garden State -- with its great  
growing conditions, and location, location, location used to provide  
the bulk of the produce consumed in the huge urban east -- NYC,  
Philly, even Boston. With the standardization of the rail gauges  
which made all RR tracks the same, food sources from further and  
further away started to take over local markets, especially when  
refrigerated transport for meat and then produce became a reality.  
The clincher was the offer local market outlets couldn't refuse: if  
you want our winter produce (from Fla, then CA) you HAVE to buy from  
us in the summer season too. The rest is history and the Garden State  
became a shadow of its former self, crop wise.

	In terms of sourcing food locally vs. further away there's much to  
be said for the freshness and nutritional quality of local foods.  
Food miles is an important energy concept. It's time to integrate a  
Life Cycle approach into the equation, however, and count ALL the  
inputs -- and externalities. Such as fertilizer sourcing, for  
example. N is especially vulnerable to price dislocations because  
it's manufactured from natural gas. It turns out that U.S. capacity  
is already maxed out (see <www.farmgate.uiuc.edu/archive/2007/08/ 
as_you_book_you.html> ) and Canada is in the same boat. Ammonia  
imports have skyrocketed and we're now dependent on an international  
market -- like the old days of the guano and Chilean Nitrate trade.

	Conventional local ag is just as dependent, of course, maybe more so  
because the big producers in the Midwest have the purchasing power to  
lock in their supply. Overall, Agri-petro chemicals have a major  
sustainability problem, folks -- energy-wise, environmentally and  
climate change-wise. The writing's on the wall -- for even short term  
food security it's time to go Organic...

Steve
Ruckytucks Farm
On Aug 9, 2007, at 8:43 AM, market-farming-request at lists.ibiblio.org  
wrote:

> Message: 7
> Date: Thu, 9 Aug 2007 07:16:04 -0500
> From: "Bill Shoemaker" <wshoemak at inil.com>
> Subject: Re: [Market-farming] NYTimes.com: Food That Travels Well
> To: "Market Farming" <market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Message-ID: <008801c7da7f$1275a4b0$28088b3f at STCHARLES>
> Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed; charset="iso-8859-1";
> 	reply-type=original
>
> Robert
>
> I'm sure you've watched produce decline during your long career as  
> a grower.
> Most of these long-distance shippers are masters at post-harvest  
> handling
> practices that preserve their product. They cool their product  
> immediately,
> clean it up, sort it, package it, ship it in reefers. It's ready for a
> beauty contest, and I think the shippers are more seduced than  
> anyone. They
> think it's perfect. But it was picked before peak ripeness to  
> survive the
> trip. It's culinary and nutritional quality were compromised for  
> the sake of
> shipping it. Then it has to survive thousands of miles of travel,  
> several
> handlers, and presentation in the market. You and I both know that the
> big-box stores don't train and retain their produce personnel like  
> they used
> too. The product really has no one taking care of it in the market.  
> Though
> the grower does their job very well, the market doesn't know how to  
> preserve
> the product. Because it's picked early, it does hold up  
> better,...at first.
> But once it starts to go down, and no one in the system understands  
> it, it
> just deteriorates.
>
> You may have a somewhat biased perspective in New Jersey because  
> you have so
> many good growers out there who ship into big markets nearby. The  
> product
> can be picked more mature, the grower still does a great job, the  
> shipping
> is minimal, and I think many of the markets are better at handling the
> product there. I'm near Chicago and I'm disgusted at produce  
> quality in most
> stores, even ones with a reputation for high quality. Even if it  
> looks good
> (the primary criteria, by the way), it lacks real culinary quality.
>
> Bottom line, I think the shipping industry is so enamored of it's
> post-harvest handling practices it loses sight of the end game.  
> They push it
> too far and the product implodes in the market. I wonder how many  
> consumers
> would be buying more than 5-servings-a-day if they could get farm- 
> fresh
> quality routinely and conveniently?
>
> Bill Shoemaker, Sr Research Specialist, Food Crops
> University of Illinois - St Charles Horticulture Research Center




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