I’ve heard recommendations ranging from the tone-deaf (“people just need to value food more and pay more for it”) to the nakedly unrealistic (“why do we need a New York City? Everybody should just move to the country and farm!”)
Thank you. I think some of this unrealistic emphasis on the consumer’s responsibility stems from the fact that many folks I’ve met in the local food movement (but certainly not all) are the hippie children of upper-middle class professionals, or otherwise come from a place of relative financial comfort. After all, it’s difficult for working class kids, with responsibilities and mounds of student loans, to take on full-time volunteer positions or receive a meager $300 a month as a farm apprentice.
As for the consumers, every farmer’s market I’ve worked at (in both Arkansas and Ohio) has been thronging with attractive white people in tight-fitting exercise clothes and fluorescent brand name sneakers, purebred dog on leash and fresh sweat on their foreheads from their jaunty morning run.
Nothing wrong with these things of course (I myself have fancied a morning jog before heading to the farmer’s market), but when local food becomes a luxury item produced by and for a certain subset of people, its view of the world becomes limited. It can have a hard time seeing what role it needs to play to engage with the larger food system and reach the general populace.