Shoppers at farmers markets in cities around the country might feel virtuous because they’re filling their baskets with eggs and chard and apples offered by farmers within driving distance. Same goes for the city subscribers in community supported agriculture programs, who buy shares in the production of a nearby farm. And they’re justified: they are helping change American agriculture by supporting local farmers instead of agribusiness. Small family farms are essential to guaranteeing the diversity and safety of our food supply.

But markets and community supported agriculture programs, wonderful as they are, can’t by themselves save American agriculture. To do that, we have to look beyond the “eat local” slogans at the farmers markets in New York, San Francisco and Chicago and think of how to give American consumers across the country access to regional products that might disappear unless they are raised in much larger numbers. In some cases the answer is to think locally but to ship nationally.

Patrick Martins, from “Set That Apricot Free,” originally published in the New York Times, and quoted in the November/December 2008 issue of edibleManhattan.

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