Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Legality of "Local"...

One of the interesting things that I've seen grow lately is the use of the "local" branding to sell different products.  This has become especially popular when it comes to farmers markets, farmstands, and other agricultural uses.

The idea (an accurate one in my mind) is that local is healthier and more energy efficient.  Yet, even the term "local" has legal issues:

Massachusetts doesn’t have a law on the books regulating the use of the word “local,” but Vermont and New Hampshire do – with occasionally illogical results. Bonanno and Dumaresq farm Massachusetts soils that lie just a few miles from the New Hampshire border, but by law, their produce cannot be labeled “local” at New Hampshire markets. Yet food grown more than 100 miles to the north would qualify as long as the farm is in the Granite State. In Massachusetts, grocers are free to interpret “local” as they see fit – and for big chains, it’s generally more economical to buy goods year-round from just one or two large purveyors rather than dealing with the complexities of ordering seasonally from local producers

“It’s a powerful word, there’s no doubt,” says Bill McGowan, produce coordinator for Whole Foods Market’s North Atlantic region. Although it’s an international operation, Whole Foods has a supply chain in place meant to satisfy its customers’ demand for local foods. Lee Kane, Whole Foods’ “EcoCzar” and “regional forager” (yes, that’s what it says on his business card) is responsible for ferreting out local goodies for every Whole Foods in New England and for overseeing store-based foragers.

In order to be considered local in a New England Whole Foods store, a product must meet two of three tests, says Kane. “It must be raised or grown locally, packaged locally, and/or produced locally,” and by local he means coming from one of the six New England states or eastern upstate New York. Produce buyers at each store are also encouraged to source products from farms that are closer – a policy McGowan says “is fairly unique in our industry.”

Some would argue that lumping all of New England into your definition of “local” is too broad. Grocer David Warner in Jamaica Plain prefers a much stricter definition. To Warner and his wife, Kristine Cortese, co-owners of City Feed and Supply’s two locations, “local” means within 100 miles, and products that come from within 300 miles are labeled “regional.”

“I like our definition,” Warner says. “Once in a while we also use ‘hyperlocal,’ by which we mean walking distance from the store.” His stores carry 600-plus local and regional products, even more during the growing season. “It frustrates me that [local] isn’t formalized,” he acknowledges.

From a land use perspective, this issue is closely related to a trend we're beginning to see more and more of as agriculture (traditionally located in "ag" zones) is finding itself creeping into the most urban zones of many towns (including even rooftops).

Read the entire article here.

Chad Emerson.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/land_use/2011/05/the-legality-of-local.html

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