Pierre Desrochers says locally grown food movements are an expensive luxury in a modern world.

Desrochers, associate professor of geography at the University of Toronto, spoke at Western Kentucky University on Wednesday evening as part of the BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism lecture series.

Desrochers discussed his book, “The Locavore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000 Mile Diet,” at Grise Hall’s auditorium.

He defines a locavore as a consumer who buys and eats locally produced food.

“The globalized food chain developed for a reason,” the associate professor said. “Long-distance trade put the end to famine.”

Modern technology and mechanization has created a food culture that can be accessed around the world. New Zealand is a major agriculture player despite its remote location, he said.

Desrochers said the United States was hit by a major drought last year, but no one starved. 

“It’s permanent summertime in the fresh food sections of the grocery stores,” he said. “Locally grown food is more expensive, and it doesn’t taste any better than food produced thousands of miles away.”

With transportation systems such as railroads and airplanes, food can be grown miles away from where it is eventually consumed, he said. If you spend more on local food, there is less money in your budget to spend on other things, he said. Community-supported agriculture lacks flexibility for the consumer.

Molly Kerby, assistant professor for diversity and community studies at WKU, said after the program that she disagrees with Desrochers.

“I’m a vendor. Locally grown food isn’t more expensive,” she said.

Kerby is researching and writing a book on local farmers markets. 

“I’ve been to 27 farmers markets across the United States,” she said. People have options at the markets to order food and pay for it in advance. Buying in bulk drives the price down, she said.

She said if anything is expensive, it might be organic meat. Local farmers markets are more than just shopping for vegetables, she said. Local farmers markets have become a place where people socialize. Additionally, experiments such as the mobile farmers market through the Barren River Area Health Department are bringing local produce at reasonable prices to people with lower incomes. 

“The double dollars the health department is doing at the mobile farmers market levels the playing field,” Kerby said.

— Chuck Mason covers education. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/bgdnschools or visit bgdailynews.com.