I went to Whole Foods recently and they did not have a lot of organic produce, but they did have a lot of "locally grown" produce, and large signs everywhere promoting this new trend.
Now for me, local can mean New Jersey...Is this really a good thing? :-)
In all seriousness, if local can be local with pesticides and hormones etc, then why is this any better than non-organic foods that are not local, cheaper in my own local grocery store with the same problems?
Most local food (at least in the areas where I've lived) will be grown without pesticides, using organic methods (compost, etc.), but not certified organic, simply due to the cost involved.
The conventional farmers who use a lot of fertilizer/pesticides are (generally speaking) going to sell to wholesalers, not direct to a retailer or consumer.
You need to ask more questions with local producers. If you go to a Farmer's Market, you can ask them directly! I would hope that the manager of the produce dept at your Whole Foods will know more about the growing methods of each local producer.
The quality of local food here in VT is so amazing, that I really won't buy anything else unless I simply can't afford it.
The CSA vegetables my family receives are so vibrant, strong. Their qualities that make them unique plants are all very pronounced. The meat is very flavorful and nutrient dense.
Another quality that may not have been mentioned, and maybe it's just me, but local food tastes like where you live. I can taste my environment in the local foods I eat, and that establishes and awesome connection with my habitat.
Eating food from your location + walking barefoot on the land you live on = a strong connection with your environment.
Local food is better because it is probably fresher and required fewer machines to get to you. Also, local food is by definition seasonal, and i think our bodies evolved eating seasonal foods.
That said, local does not necessarily mean organic or wholesome or well raised or well prepared, so i night pick top quality salmon from across the country over local foods. But i am generally disappointed with the quality of the foods that are typically available.
Depends on what you mean with better. Other commenters gave good reasons for local being healthier, such as it being seasonal and perhaps produced with fewer pesticides. But we have to also remember that food quality is highly dependend on soil quality. And some parts of the world are just more suitable for growing certain types of foods. So local doesn't automatically mean better soil quality.
And then there's the environmental question. Locally produced food usually creates more carbon dioxide emissions than 'mass produced' food. For example tomatoes produced in a warm climate will be more environmentally friendly than tomatoes produced in a colder climate. Warm climates require less energy inputs into growing the tomatoes. And transportation accounts only about 7% of carbon emissions for food.
My farmer's market has all local produce but NONE of it is organic (or less sprayed, etc). I don't buy any of it and wind up buying organic stuff shipped in from across the country, which seems ludicrous, but if I have to make a choice I care more about not eating pesticides than lowering my carbon footprint.
There are a few local rooftop farms that I try to support that I know don't use pesticides so that's nice.
I am, however, weirded out by "organic" stuff that comes from Mexico and other places out of the country because I don't know what the standards are there.
It's certainly better for the local economy. To me, keeping local economies healthy rather than corporate stockholders bank accounts is a paleo lifestyle issue.
If you buy direct from the farmer at a farmers market, through a CSA or on the farm, you can talk to them about, and often see, their production practices. Many are effectively organic although not licensed that way because of the high cost.
I thought local foods would just be to help your local community/ business unless they state they produce clean, non pesticide/ carbon footprint reducing foods they probably are plowing it full of rubbish, please correct me if I'm wrong.
Local isn't necessarily better. In terms of resources used, those advocating consuming local stuff tend to overestimate transportation as a factor and underestimate all other costs. In some cases, your local producer can actually be burning more fuel (and resources in general) to get you your product than the evil global corporation does.
Local also doesn't work as a proxy for food quality. You have to talk to the locals to see if they get it. Of course, you also have to read labels to see if corporate types get it, so in terms of time invested, you are likely to be better off finding a local supplier- assuming he's on your wavelength.
What local actually helps for is having some clue where to go when the supply disruptions start.
Fresher and cheaper usually. Yesterday I bought farmer's market rhubarb for 99 cents a pound, a third what the grocery charges. The huckleberries I picked for free a week ago are so local you can't get them anywhere else, at any price. I eat what grows locally as often as I can.