Sunday, 16 March 2014


Having recently evaluated my annual mileage, I have been thinking a lot about distances. Yes I am talking about how far it is from one point to another, such as the distance from your home to work, or the distance the apples have travelled to end up in your fruit bowl.

When I buy apples I can stand there for several minutes peering at labels and evaluating the distances. Sometimes there will be coxes apples from the UK, but this is much less likely out of season. Then I will be sifting through the apples mainly from China, USA and New Zealand to try and find some that are from somewhere more local, like France or Holland.

The UK is fairly densely populated, certainly compared to the rest of Europe, so it may be little wonder that we are not currently self-sufficient in food. However there has always been trade with our European neighbours, notably France, Holland and Spain for food. The distance across the English Channel to France is just 21 miles, and from London to Paris is 213 miles as the crow flies (or 282 miles by road and ferry/tunnel). This is about the same distance as it is from New York to Washington DC, yet they are within the same country. Does this distance still count as local for us, whether it is in another state or a neighbouring country?

New York to Los Angeles is 2,448 miles direct (or 2,790 miles driving), which is more than 10 times the distance from London to Paris or Amsterdam. It's still in the USA though, so is it local for New Yorkers? Where do you think the equivalent distance from London would take you? To Rome? Or Moscow? Cairo? Further than that! It's 2,201 miles (2,854 driving) from London to Damascus in Syria, but Syria doesn't feel local to me. Yet during the course of a year my husband and I drive enough miles to get to Syria and back four times (including our business miles).

What can I take from this? I definitely do too much driving, even though the distances I travel are short and very local. But the main point is that this is our global economy. The apples in our shops can quite easily have travelled further in their short lifespan than I do in a year. Half way round the world even. I can also appreciate that it is our European neighbours, even though they may speak a different language, who are our closest allies and are best placed to supply us with food in times when oil for transport is expensive or scarce.


  1. I do the same thing at the fruit section! Good to know that I really can consider France as 'local' (especially when it comes to the wine!!) :-)

    1. Only about 5% of the fruit we eat is grown in the UK. Bananas are the most popular fruit and come from the tropics, so already we have a problem with buying local. It would be tough just buying British fruit when we produce so little. One way round this is to grow your own fruit. To me France, Spain and Holland are about as local as we will get, especially for wine.