A food activist friend sent me a little article from the Globe and Mail not long ago about how local food may not always be the most ethical choice.

I was intrigued. I tend to hold up local on a pedestal as an example of socially, economically and environmentally responsible sustainable farming. Silly me!

I picture friends who run family farms, use woofers and sell organics at outdoor markets, small stores and select restaurants. Again, silly me!

The article, Local food = ethical food? Doesn’t always work that way, by Wency Leung, challenges us to extend our consumer awareness to the condition and treatment of farm workers in our own backyard.

If you boycott companies because they use child labour or don’t allow pee breaks on the assembly line, why would you buy cucumbers from the guy who poisons his workers and pollutes the land right next to you?

Just because Farmer Brown is only down the road a ways does not mean that he is necessarily a great guy who treats his workers, animals and land well.

Yes, this is a tough one. I want to support farmers; they are the ones who feed us. But I think this is a reminder that we need to consider the ethical behavior of the farmer – our local farmer — when buying our food. As Leung ‘s article suggests, the simple fact that he’s close by may not mean he deserves our business.



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