Sometimes focusing strictly on eating local can be a bad thing. What if your local producer uses conventional methods? What if your local producer is a mega-agribusiness that practices farming techniques that are deleterious to the environment? Think giant hog farms.
When choosing to eat local you need to weigh your options among your local growers. Choosing sustainable or organically grown over conventional is an easy decision if it's grown locally. But what if all you have are conventional products locally? Does it make sense to buy organic products if you have to ship it in from outside your "area"?
This is a decision that everyone has to make for themselves. As discussed in Michael Pollan's, The Omnivore's Dilemma, one farmer argues that buying organic from a giant producer at the very least removes those acres of produce from being farmed conventionally. So, even though that produce is grown in a mono-culture or those chickens have only "access" to the outside (but not truly free-range), it's better than the alternative.
Does this same line of thinking hold for conventional and local versus organic and distant? When it comes down to it I think each situation will depend, but my yardstick will be organic and distant over local and conventional. Of course, when choosing a U-Pick farm or facing down the options at the local farmer's market, this may just waver a bit. Sometimes I forget that just because I'm at a farmer's market doesn't mean that the grower is practicing sustainable farming. I have to remember to ask.
One of my readers brought up a book that addresses these issues: The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter. I haven't read it yet, but it looks like it makes for a good read along with The Omnivore's Dilemma.
What about you? How will you decide? What do you do now?