Long Trips For Produce

9 years 9 months 1 week ago October 09, 2007 Oct 9, 2007 Tuesday, October 09 2007 Tuesday, October 09, 2007 9:17:55 AM CDT in News

Farmer Phil Stewart has been growing produce in Mid-Missouri for ten years.

"I love to see things grow, and I love to talk to people who have enjoyed my produce," he said.

Stewart said he can answer any questions about his food, especially about how far it has traveled.

"That's a frequently asked question," Stewart said.

Questions like this are not always easily answered by chain grocery stores. Many grocers have no idea about food miles, or the distance food travels from farm to plate.

Produce stickers on produce in Mid-Missouri grocery stores are labeled with places such as Michigan, Georgia and Canada - more than 2,000 miles away.

In a study tracking the average of food miles for selected produce, the Leopold Center for sustainable agriculture at Iowa State University said quash traveled about 781 miles, sweet corn 831 miles, apples more than 1,500 miles, and broccoli and grapes more than 2,000 miles.

The shipping hurts the overall quality of the product.

"It sad ten days in various places. From the field to the packing shed, to the warehouse to the grocery store cooler to the shelf, to you, to your refrigerator and so on," Stewart said. "The shelf life is pretty much gone. You had better use it soon."

However, he quality of the food is not the only thing that suffers.

"It is about proximity," said rural sociologist Mary Hendrickson. "It's about knowing what you're putting in your body."

Dan Nelson of Danjo farms said the Farmers Market in Columbia is a good place to meet and talk to customers.

"I had some pretty in depth conversations with my customers. They are like, 'Well we want to know,'." Nelson said.

Stewart said the biggest argument for local food has little to do with food miles, nutrition, or the local economy.

"They are interested in talking to the person that grew what they are going to eat," Stewart said.

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