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Super Sensitive About Localism

A recent New York Times piece, "The Pride and Prejudice of ‘Local,'" got me thinking about my own locavorism—or as it is increasingly being called, localism, because the “local” movement is going beyond just local food. If I ever come across to people who know me like some of the people in this piece come across, I’d be embarrassed. I don’t believe I come across like this in my writing, but if I do, I’m sure my readers will let me know. Portland restaurant owner Eric Bechard recently got into a fistfight over pigs he believed weren’t local enough. He had entered a culinary contest in Oregon that was advertised as local, and became “sickened” when two entrants used pigs from Kansas and Iowa. Fueled by alcohol (I certainly hope it was local alcohol), he was the aggressor in a fight with the contest’s organizer. A couple of police Tasers and cans of pepper spray later, the fight ended. Bechard believes “the pig fight has created a teachable moment for how to live locally.” I have to wonder what the lesson is? (Or at least what he thinks the lesson is.) I don’t see anything but poor sportsmanship (he didn’t win the culinary contest) and hypocrisy being taught here (the restaurant he runs doesn’t source everything local—although someday he eventually hopes it will). Then there is Portland’s Paul Sykes who has stopped patronizing a coffee shop that began locally in Portland but has expanded to other states. Sykes doesn’t go there any more because they aren’t “local” enough for him. Yet, he sells the products he makes out of wood “all over the world” because “it’s the only way I can make any money.” Do you see the problem here? It’s a snobby elitism that says, “I don’t have to be totally local, but darn it, the places I patronize better be totally local or they aren’t good enough for me.” Bechard isn’t 100 percent local at his restaurant, but he expects a contest he enters to be. Sykes needs a global market to stay in business but is unforgiving when another business does the same. I haven’t met anyone in the South Jersey local scene with this type of attitude. I’m hoping this isn’t the prevailing attitude in Portland, either, and that the two men The New York Times found are the exception, not the up-and-coming rule for people everywhere who value local. The New York Times also interviewed Erik Gage, the lead singer for the Portland-based band White Fang. Their song “Portland Sucks” pokes fun of this attitude that some of Portlanders have. I agree whole-heartedly with Gage when he says, “I think one of the most important things about localism is getting along with the locals.” Being an elitist snob about anything isn’t going to win converts in any community. No one will want to be around you to hear what you believe. They’ll only see your behavior, and the behavior of people like Bechard or Sykes won’t win anyone over to being more supportive of all things local. Robin Shreeves blogs for MNN about finding eco-friendly food options. Related Articles on Mother Nature Network: The benefits of buying local See our archive of stories on this topic Photo courtesy of 'Portland Buy Local' via MNN

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