To the things we hold dear, we tend to associate traits that in reality may not necessarily be so. Case in point: local food.

Local food is local food, period. Its distinguishing characteristic is that it’s grown close to where it’s consumed, chalking up as few food miles as possible. Varying definitions exist about how close is close. But in the end, if consumers buy it (and pay what it’s worth), local farmers, however they’re defined, benefit.

Now, consider what local food is not.

Nothing makes local food automatically organic, natural, better, worse, cheaper or more expensive than non-local food. But sometimes perceptions trump reality, and a new study shows that seems to be the case when it comes to certain local food traits.

Ben Campbell, a horticulture economics researcher at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, says the Canada-wide online survey of almost 900 people his team conducted last fall shows most respondents grasp the basic idea that local food means decreased transportation.

Logically, people understand anything that needs to be shipped an appreciable distance is likely to challenge the environment more than the same commodity produced locally, however it’s defined.

But Campbell and his team found clarity was lacking among respondents on some other local food and organic food aspects.

The team’s findings prompted my Urban Cowboy column in today’s Guelph Mercury.

The photo is from