Last night I went to the fridge to grab a bite of cheese. We have bought the same brand of tasty cheddar cheese for years, but for some reason I've never before noticed all the labels appearing on the package. There was one label in particular that caught me by surprise. I took a picture of it and posted it below (sorry for the grainy quality!).
It says "Keep Local Farms.org." On the front of the package, I can read that the cheese comes from "farm families in New York & New England." What is the "local" label supposed to mean? I haven't the faintest idea.
I'm sure the dairy farmers in New York are fine people. But, they certainly aren't local to me. I bought the cheese at Walmart in Stillwater Oklahoma. A dairy in Mexico is probably closer to me than one in New York. Other than the taste of the cheese, it isn't at all clear to my why I should prefer to support the dairy farmers in New York as compared to the ones in California or the ones in Oklahoma or Texas.
When I click to the link advertised on the package, I come to a web site promoting dairies in the New England and New York. That's all fine and good, but what does it possibly have to do with "local"? Last time I checked, Oklahoma isn't in New Engand! Maybe they want me to buy their cheese so they can stay where they are - in their locale - irrespective of where I happen to be. But, I still don't get it. Why should I care more about keeping them in their locale than keeping anyone else making cheese in Wisconsin, California, or New Mexico (who presumably don't want to move either) in their locale?
A likely explanation for this label is that the marketers know most people see the word "local" and conjure up all kinds of positive images without much conscious thought. Yet, when "local" starts being trumpeted as a national cause or brand, it loses some meaning - because my local isn't your local and vice versa. By all means, tout the merits of cheese from New York or New England but local has nothing to do with it.
This little example wouldn't be worth mentioning if it weren't symptomatic of a larger problem of a lack of critical thinking among many of those who religiously promote the buy local movement.