Photo: jen_maiser, Flickr
If the locavore movement is trying to shed its elitist image as an exclusive province for those who can afford $5 for a handful of locally grown strawberries, then it's not getting much help from the Wall Street Journal.
A recent article on WSJ.com focused on the two-month-old Foodshed Project in San Francisco. The project's goals are laudable: each year, farms within 100 miles of San Francisco produce $10 billion worth of food; the Foodshed Project is trying to get more of that food to local tables rather than having it shipped all across the country.
But it seems that the movement that's all about cutting out the middleman and connecting eaters with the source of what they eat is discovering the importance of, well, middlemen.
As the Journal puts it: "In the Foodshed program, a few dozen farms sell their produce via Ben and Annie Ratto, a husband-and-wife team who act as middlemen between farms and food distributors. Those distributors...pick up produce from small farms at the Rattos' warehouse in Oakland and deliver it to customers. Mr. Ratto and the distributors each charge a markup -- typically 10% to 15% for Mr. Ratto, while the distributors add a charge, currently $5 per case of produce."
If all those markups seem destined to put the label of "locally grown" on par with "luxury," then take a look at Foodshed's nascent client list, which includes high-end Bay Area catering company, Living Room Events, and the epitome of luxury itself, the Ritz-Carlton, where locally grown strawberries "typically end up in guests' continental breakfasts."
As Marie Antoinette might have put it today: "Let them eat Chilean blueberries!"