In what is surely meant to provoke controversy, James McWilliams posits that very theory on a guest post on the Times' Freaknomics blog. It may be controversial on the face of it, but he's saying nothing new or even particularly perceptive here.
Yes, it's true that heirloom tomatoes grown and sold locally are not going to be affordable for anyone who cannot afford to make any discretionary spending decisions involving food. I've often made that very point to people who blithely say that we as responsible citizens of the world are just going to have to pay more for locally, sustainably grown and/or raised food. Locally grown food is invariably not the cheapest source of produce in a given market.
That being said, there are efforts underway to set up greenmarkets and farmer's markets in low and lower-income neighborhoods in many cities across the country. The farmers at those markets are most often selling locally, sustainably and responsibly grown, non-designer fruits and vegetables to diverse populations at reasonable prices. In fact, in many of these neighborhoods there is precious little easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables anywhere. Let's face it. Bodegas are not good sources for reasonably priced fresh produce, locally grown or otherwise. So for McWilliams to suggest that locally grown produce stifles diversity and discourages community is rather bogus if you ask me.
Damn you, James McWilliams. Your little gambit worked. Your post got my locally raised goat.