A Closer Look at Local

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Sorry for the long hiatus but we've been working hard on getting this project off the ground. Recently, we were excited to find out that Can YA Love successfully became an incorporated organization. That makes us official ya’ll! We have some other exciting updates that we’ll be posting in the near future as well so check back soon. For now, here is Ben’s take on all the hoopla around local produce...


A Look at "Local" by: Founder Benjamin Friton

Many people ask me about the recent emphasis on “local produce.” Interestingly, the talking points on local produce actually represent a small portion of what is most important about the subject. For the most part, it seems the discussion focuses on the shipping of produce over long distances and how that impacts carbon emissions. Even if emissions were the primary issue, there is far more to it than the environmental impact. The cost of fuel is a key factor in the fluctuating cost of produce, making food out of the reach for some. We can all imagine that the farther away our produce travels the more expensive it becomes (when holding other economic factors constant). 
Contamination Risk

E coli breakouts in everything from spinach, tomatoes, and the recent bean sprouts in Europe, have proven that cross-contamination during the cleaning process and non-organic fertilization processes can kill many people. There are two things to note: (1) E coli cannot exist in a plant, only on a plant; and (2) plants don’t get E coli from the soil they grow in. These large scale farms send their crops to large processing plants that wash tons of vegetables and meats before shipping them across the world. There is no way to know, until it is too late, what caused the issue and where the affected areas are. We have no idea what the growing standards are in these faraway places nor do we know how closely they are followed.

Less nutritious, less hardy

When you see tomatoes in a supermarket for 25 to 50 cents less than your local “farmer John,” it is hard to believe you are getting a raw deal.

But you are, and here’s why. The only time that a nutrient can enter into a fruit or vegetable is while it is still attached to the mother plant. Now imagine the tomato that you buy from the super market, which likely came from a distant region of the US or even Chili or China. No farmer can possibly pick a vine ripened tomato from even 500 miles away and get it to you with time to spare before it begins to decompose. Instead, that supermarket tomato probably spent two or three fewer weeks on the vine than farmer John’s tomato. The only reason that a tomato in the store picked prematurely is so red and tasty looking is because of a “gassing” technique. During the final stage of transport they use Ethylene gas to “ripen” those tomatoes. This is not at all dangerous, nor toxic. It even happens naturally. They do it so the fruits have their signature red color at the right and predictable time, and we the consumer can’t tell how under-developed the fruit really is, a raw deal indeed.

Home gardeners will find even less to like about that distantly-sourced tomato. Plants naturally build up resistance to local blights and diseases and transfer this resistance into the seeds of the fruit. That’s why anyone who uses seeds from the fruits themselves should use seeds from as local a source as possible, from as mature a fruit as possible. If you buy your locally vine ripened tomato you are getting the best possible seed for you to grow your own. In contrast, most seeds from distant grown veggies have seeds that will never grow.


There are simple steps to ensuring that you know where your food comes from. ASK! Farmer John can tell you everything, the supermarket cannot. Maybe if the farm is close enough you can visit. It’s a wonderful lesson that can ease your worries in a couple of hours and you can learn some wonderful techniques. Lastly, GROW YOUR OWN! The fewer hands (trucks and processing plants) that your food goes through, the safer and healthier you are.
For further reading

Food Safety


Ethylene Gassing


Benjamin F. Friton
Can YA Love and the KenYA Love Project
Founder and Chief of Research, Learning, and Development