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A geographic approach to place and natural resource use in local food systems

  • Leslie Duram (a1) and Lydia Oberholtzer (a2)

This article illuminates the geographic concept of ‘place’ in local foods. Because the social aspects of local food have been more fully addressed in previous literature, this review focuses instead on the ecological aspects of farming and food. First, the literature on natural resource use in agriculture provides contextual understanding of water use, biodiversity, soils and agro-ecological methods. The complex relationship between climate change and agriculture is described and models assessing the impacts of climate change on agriculture are detailed. The geography of local food is specifically addressed by describing methods for assessing natural resource use in local food, including food miles, consumer transportation, scale and community, agricultural methods and diet. Finally, future research paths are suggested to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the environmental impact of local food. Such research would encompass the geography of local food through development of broader, more inclusive strategy, including the concept of the ‘ecological appetite’ of crops and foods, the union of both social and ecological aspects of resource use, the linkages between rural and urban producers and consumers and the inclusion of farmers’ ecological knowledge. Overall, the geography of local food seeks to assess the where of food production and consumption, while incorporating key issues of how (agro-ecological methods benefiting the community) and what (locally appropriate crops).

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