Local Food-What is it? What's it Worth? - Perfect Duluth Day

Local Food–What is it? What’s it Worth?

The Anthropology Senior Seminar course I am teaching at UMD is focusing on local food and sustainability. A few weeks ago we had a class meal prepared by students with local ingredients. We had a lively debate about what qualifies as local and why it is important to eat locally.

Definitions of local vary–Whole Foods Co-op uses 300-miles as a benchmark. Some of the Twin Cities coops allow anything that comes from a five state area (Minnesota and the states that touch it) to count as local. Other local grocery stores are using the term, too, though I’m not sure what criteria they are using. Other definitions are more restrictive.

What about a PDD definition? What counts as local food?

Local food usually means small to mid-scale production, requiring more human labor, but less fossil fuel–that means more jobs, but also potentially higher costs. How willing are you to spend a little extra money for locally produced foods? How much extra?

I’m going to have more questions about these topics as I’m currently involved in several research projects along these lines, but that’s enough for now.



about 14 years ago

My feeling that local food is anything within 100 miles because a farmer or producer can drive there and back in one day if it's less than 100 miles.


about 14 years ago

Hi Coco - We are having a local food menu for Earth Hour/Day/Month and we had to select regional - because this time of year 100 miles is just too short.
We will also be showing some films from Duluth Community Gardens.
More info to come


about 14 years ago

That makes good sense this time of the year, otherwise the plate may be meager.. Produce is such a challenge for our area, I often take it out of the local food equation until the summer fall season.


about 14 years ago


I believe my students will be contacting you (maybe they have already?)--they want to gather your insights into the possibilities and challenges of restaurants in our area using local foods. When we had our class meal, I gave a prize for the team that had the fewest food miles--the prize was a $40 gift certificate at your cafe--we had a nice meal there together last week.


about 14 years ago

This is one of my favorite topics. Northfield, Minn., did an eat-local challenge a year or so ago. If I recall correctly, participants were allowed something like 20% of their food to be not locally produced (i.e. coffee, tea, chocolate), but 80 percent had to be from, I think, Minnesota. That's a tough standard since Minnesota isn't California in terms of agricultural productivity, but the five-state definition of "local" seems a little too permissive to me.

Northwoods Baby

about 14 years ago

We do local, uber-local, and everything else. Uber-local comes from our yard (chickens, turkeys, pigs, sheep, eggs, veggies, fruit). Local comes from a 250-mile radius, because if we limit it to 100 there's butt nothing to eat for a long part of the year. Making it a bit wider allows us to buy from places that run hoophouses or greenhouses for year-round production, while still limiting the fuel consumption aspect. 

My goal this year is to preserve as much harvest as possible, so that we only have to buy things like dairy, flour, sugar, etc. One of these days, we may be able to eat 90% off our land, and that's kind of exciting. 

For beef, we'll be buying from a local grass farmer. Chocolate? Well, that's just going to have to come on a plane or a ship and I'm okay with that.



about 14 years ago

300 miles is a decent local range. Anything labeled "Local" over that is trying to jump on a trend.


about 14 years ago

I thought I heard at Living Green Conference in Duluth a couple years ago that 100 miles was the standard for eating local.  Hey, just thought, anybody into cold frame gardening - for lettuce in winter, etc?  I have not tried yet but was wondering how well it works if others have done?

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