And every remotely ambitious artisan sooner or later finds himself making trade-offs of one sort or another. Early on, Jones had to accept that as a New York pickle-maker he would need to compromise his locavore mission when he discovered that in this region cucumbers grow only three months of the year. “Friends said, ‘Dude, you make pickles. You can’t not produce for three-quarters of the year.’ It was a hard thing to wrestle with in my mind.
Pretty much every artisanal thing described in this article is hilarious, but the idea of a guy starting a locally sourced pickle company without realizing that this severely limited his cucumber availability is particularly funny to me.
When I first moved to Chicago, I worked at a very high-end deli with a focus on local food and sustainability. At one point while I was there, a local popcorn company came in and did a tasting of their artisanal popcorn with us. It was, like, a bacon caramel corn with Victorian circus packaging — very on trend — and it retailed for something like $7 for a tiny, maybe five ounce, bag. Locally sourced artisanal popcorn seemed like a perfect fit for this place, although it seemed to me that the obvious pitfall was that the market for $7 bags of popcorn might be pretty limited. However, the owner didn’t want to carry the popcorn (actually, now that I think about it, I think maybe we already carried it, but he wanted to stop carrying it) because the bacon used in this popcorn was not sustainably sourced. Apparently, the women making the popcorn had considered this as an option but had (rightly, as far as I’m concerned) decided that the $9 or whatever this change would necessitate bumping the price up to would make the popcorn prohibitively expensive. As someone who was being paid approximately the cost of a bag of artisanal bag of popcorn with sustainably sourced bacon per hour, this whole debate struck me as entirely pointless then, and the idea of a militant attitude about locally sourced food in a city like Brooklyn or even Chicago strikes me as even more pointless now. The point of local or sustainable food should absolutely not be some badge of authenticity or hipness about how local a radius your food has (and if you need suspenders to get your social mission across, you are doing it wrong). Pretty much, as long as you’re not eating food that has been flown on a plane, you have the relative sustainability advantage of local food (the amount of fuel needed for land transportation is minor compared to the fossil fuel cost of clearing land and producing fertilizer), and, if your issue in a big city is terroir: what exactly do you think the terroir of your city has to offer? Look, by all means put your money into sustainably sourced stuff if you can as a consumer, but also, like, be aware of the fact that moving to a city means that you have made a choice that food is going to have to travel to you, and local might have to mean something that came from 500 miles away rather than 50 or 5 — in other words, you have made a choice to not be a quote unquote locavore, sorry. But it is also okay because in general your lifestyle of living in a shared building and riding public transportation and using a small piece of land very intensely so that more land can be preserved elsewhere is relatively more sustainable than if you were living on a large farm somewhere, in addition to being more economically efficient. I don’t know. Mostly I think mustaches are the dumbest thing ever, and I really don’t fuck with any business model that involves them.