Shortly after finishing my post about converting (putatively) local milk into yogurt, I came across this post at the Eat Local Challenge. The writer deems Shenandoah Pride to be not really local because it has been bought out by a larger corporation. I have not been able to find any definite information on where the milk in a Shenandoah Pride carton actually comes from: does it all come from Virginia herds? Does some of it come from Virginia herds and get mixed with milk from a larger region? I don't know. I more or less took the Virginia address on the carton at face value.
One issue here is the question of why I am trying to eat more local foods and what I consider "local" to mean. I intend to do a longer post or small series of posts on this topic soon. For now, let me just observe that there are many reasons for eating local, and sometimes whether a particular food fits with your reasons for seeking out local food will not be entirely clear. Reducing "food miles" is one reason to eat local; putting money into the local economy and dealing with smaller, locally-owned businesses is another reason. Usually these two reasons go together, but it's possible for them to be in conflict. Let's assume for the moment that the milk inside a Shenandoah Pride carton does, indeed, come from dairy herds in Virginia, and let's assume that the milk is processed and bottled locally as well. Does the fact that Shenandoah Pride is not locally owned mean that the milk does not count as "local"? What about the opposite situation, with a small local business that imports foods from far away. Several of the food suppliers that I have been considering "local" for my purposes—such as Bantry Bay and Kite's Hams—would fit that description. Imported cinnamon from Bantry Bay or a midwest-raised ham from Kite's would have a lot of food miles behind it, but its purchase would benefit a small, local business. How fully local does "local" have to be?
For me, the short answer to that question is that a product which satisfies some of my reasons for trying to eat local is preferable to a product which satisfies none of them. And I am not, at this time, willing to restrict my diet to foods that meet every conceivable criterion for localness.
Another question raised by the post at the Eat Local Challenge is the issue of rBGH in milk. I'm not thrilled to have rBGH in my dairy products, and I always appreciate when dairy is produced without the cows being given extra hormones, but at the moment, it is not a high priorty for me to seek out rBGH-free dairy products exclusively.
Finally, I was interested to see Kathryn Russell of Majesty Farm responding in the comments on the Eat Local Challenge post. I thought about mentioning Majesty Farm in my post about yogurt, but decided to skip it. I think their cow share program sounds fantastic, and the argument in favor of raw milk sounds pretty good. I drank raw milk from a local farm on many occasions as a kid, and I remember it tasting wonderful. I've decided that I don't drink enough milk currently to make it worthwhile to buy into the Majesty Farm cow share program (assuming they have cow shares available), which is why I went to C'ville Market looking for the next-best, next-most-localest thing.