Our June 28 Food Issue drew a passionate response from both locavores and vegetarians.

July 19, 2009
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More Veggies, Please Boston restaurants may be moving toward the use of fresh and local ingredients (“A Taste of Things to Come,” June 28), but vegetarians, particularly vegans, are still left out in the cold. (More than 40 years for this writer, so I know whence I speak.) In spite of the ethical and environmental implications of producing animal products, Boston is a backwater when it comes to vegetarian-friendly restaurants.

Cynthia Haigh / Milton

As Ten Tables is proving by its popularity, eating local produce and animals slaughtered nearby is the new gourmet. Though the food is delicious, it’s not the most sustainable. Shifting a little “to the left” is the plant-based diet, which uses the least energy, minimizes global warming gases, and produces calories and nutrition the most efficiently without sacrificing the gourmet potential. The locavore movement is a step in the right direction but should not be the ultimate goal.

Diane Carr / Lexington

The Way to Eat In “A Bitter Reality” (Perspective, June 28), Tom Keane built a reasonable case against what I believe is an insignificant minority. In fact, as a student of agriculture and food supply, I’ve yet to meet a dyed-in-the-wool locavore. Most of the people I know who care about locally grown food and small farms -- myself included -- are not particularly interested in giving up coffee, chocolate, or bananas. (I and many others advocate for fair-trade products, which ensure those growers are making a fair living.) What many of us hope for is a decentralization of food production in order to make it safer and less environmentally taxing.

Alex Reisman / Medford

The “eat local” movement is about far more than good taste and “feel good” vibes at the farmer’s markets. It is part of the answer to taking the industrialization out of food production and putting it back in the hands of actual farmers who want agriculture to be sustainable. The way it’s practiced now is not sustainable. Those Great Plains Keane cites? They’ve been farmed to death the industrial way. And perhaps he’s heard about the regional wars over depleted water resources and the coming end of cheap petroleum? In many ways, they could be a godsend to the prairies, forcing a return to the wisdom in sustainable practices.

Linda Clark / Arlington

The people I know who aspire to eating locally still enjoy their morning coffee, the occasional bite of chocolate, their California citrus, and fresh Pacific salmon. The point for many of us is the serious environmental problem that Americans (and now much of the developed world) create when they assume one can eat whatever food one wants any time of the year, as long as one can find a retailer and pay the price. It’s akin to all of us believing we have the right to drive Hummers because, well, we’re Americans! Eating local foods doesn’t fix all the problems, but it offers an alternative focal point for a new, sustainable global economy where those poor Midwesterners can still enjoy the occasional lobster but recognize it as a treat, not a human right.

Bob Follansbee / Dorchester

Keane may have a valid point about the economics of local versus large-scale farming, but he fails to factor in too many important considerations. Leaving aside the “warm and fuzzy” nostalgia for hard-working farmers and the subjective value of how food tastes, he ignores the fact that the only way mega-farms can succeed is through the use of toxic chemicals, for both pest control and soil enhancement. This in turn destroys ecosystems (by encouraging new and stronger pests, thus requiring new and stronger chemicals). Yes, locally raised foods can be more expensive to the consumer, but that’s one cost among many. It’s a complex agricultural, social, economic, and political issue, and Keane fails to do justice to it.

Sheila Connolly / Middleborough

Keane seems to have forgotten that the local organic food economy is the way humans have eaten for the majority of their existence. If, as he states, “local food is not greener food,” why wasn’t there a pollution problem 10,000 years ago? He argues that factory farms maximize production per acre. Those farms provide a short-term economic stimulus while they wreak havoc on the environment and public health. I agree that we don’t want to be eating like we did in the Neolithic Age. But if everyone bought their bananas from Costa Rica and their meat, potatoes, and vegetables locally, organic farms would thrive, healthcare costs would drop, and pollution of all kinds would plummet.

Niko Segal-Wright / Arlington

One thing is often left out of the eating locally discussion: the importance of the backyard garden. I’m an enthusiastic gardener and have been for many years. My wife and I live in Watertown and have approximately 180 square feet under cultivation. From our plot, we get a bountiful harvest, more than sufficient for our use and to give away. I know gardening isn’t for everyone, but the assumption that locally grown produce is only available at restaurants and high-end grocers doesn’t tell the whole story.Jason Field / Watertown

Keane’s column was right on! As he said, it’s great to buy locally when you can, but to “boycott” such things as coffee, tea, spices, and rice that can’t be grown here is not only foolish but smacks of “nativism and protectionism.” If carried out by many, it would certainly help to impoverish developing nations that depend on exporting these important crops. We don’t want these nations resorting to growing poppies and other such crops, do we?

Marcia Kay / Reading

Comments? Write to or The Boston Globe Magazine/Letters, PO Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819. Letters are subject to editing.


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