Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 121–133 | Cite as

Do locavores have a dilemma? Economic discourse and the local food critique

  • Helen Scharber
  • Anita DancsEmail author


Local food critics have recently argued that locavores, unaware of economic laws and principles, are ironically promoting a future characterized by less food security and more environmental destruction. In this paper, we critically examine the ways in which mainstream economics discourse is employed in arguments to undermine the proclaimed benefits of local food. We focus on several core concepts in economics—comparative advantage, scale, trade and efficiency—and show how they have been used to challenge claims about local food’s benefits in the areas of economy, environment, food security, and food quality. After reviewing the arguments, we then evaluate some shortcomings that emerge from this reliance on economic logic and, importantly, we assess what local food proponents may take away from these critiques. We conclude by identifying several pathways for future research.


Local food Sustainability Locavores Economic critique Local economy Food security 



Comparative advantage, scale, trade and efficiency



The authors thank Hector Saez, Shawn Trivette, Emily Kawano, and two anonymous reviewers for very helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper that greatly improved it.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hampshire CollegeAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Western New England UniversitySpringfieldUSA

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