IF WE SET THE ENERGY EFFICIENCY ARGUMENT ASIDE, ARE WE LEFT WITH TRULY COMPELLING REASONS TO BUY LOCAL? IF SO, WHAT ARE THEY? The most important reasons to me are taste and supporting the local economy. I'd rather use my dollars to support local farmers than a huge corporation like Monsanto.

In addition, I question the safety of mass-produced foods, especially given recent outbreaks of ecoli and salmonella, and have concerns about food imported from other countries where we have no idea of how they are raised or processed. We might prevent farmers in the US from using certain pesticides, but what about the raspberries or tomatoes from Chile that are in our markets in February — are these safe? Do they have the same safeguards as US products?

HOW POSSIBLE IS IT, IN RHODE ISLAND, TO "BUY LOCAL" IN A COMPREHENSIVE WAY? On a commercial level? Given the quantities of food supplies ordered by restaurants, it is difficult to rely only on local sources that may not be able to provide those quantities. Since I haven't worked as a chef for many years now, I am uncertain whether local chefs could purchase most of their foodstuffs, including meat and poultry, from local growers/farmers.

Farm Fresh RI does connect farmers and chefs throughout the year for local produce.

WHAT'S BETTER — A DEL'S LEMONADE OR A LOCAL TOMATO? I'll take the tomato every time.

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