An interesting article in Salon today about, among other things, eating locally. (This will bring you to the main page, but you have to watch the commercial to read anything.) The argument against eating locally seems to be that 1) shipping is much more fuel-efficient than trucking; 2) growing stuff in the irrigated California desert is worse than shipping stuff grown in places that have water and arable soil naturally, and 3) if even 2 cents of every dollar you spend on imported food gets to a Kenyan farmer, that's going to make a big difference in world poverty.
Hm. Okay, here's my take: Eating locally shouldn't be any more mindless than eating "organic." Every choice has to be examined on its own merits. But I don't think the only choices are between arid desert forced into work as farmland and natural farmland 10,000 miles away. Eating more foods that can be grown sustainably locally seems to me the goal.
As for the shipping versus trucking issue, I would find this a heartening argument for the purchase of Italian olive oil over Californian olive oil - if I knew that the oil wasn't shipping to Los Angeles and THEN trucked across the country.
And the point about the Kenyan farmers is encouraging for coffee-drinkers. But I can't say that most of my food-dollars-abroad are heading to Kenya. Are the New Zealanders is eqaully desperate need of my money, or am I justified in thinking an apple from the local orchard makes more sense than the supermarket Granny Smiths?
Finally, there are other arguments besides shipping fuel costs for supporting New England farmers, particularly the maintenance of biologically diverse (if the farming methods are sustainable) land in areas under threat of overdevelopment.