There is a growing movement in the U.S. to purchase foods that are grown locally. It is generally associated with broader sustainability movements to create more locally based food economies and sustainable food production. These local food systems offer an alternative to corporate factory farm models and have a number of benefits to producers and consumers alike.
The primary benefit to consumers is fresher, better tasting produce. Fruits and vegetables grown locally make it to market much more quickly so it is allowed to ripen naturally. When produce has to be picked, boxed, delivered to a distributor, and then transported over hundreds or thousands of miles, it has to be picked early and unripe. It loses much of the fresh, wonderful flavors that develop when allowed to ripen naturally. Locally grown fruits and vegetables are also more nutritious than produce that has been sitting in boxes awaiting transport.
Buying locally grown foods supports the local farmers. Many of these are small, family-owned farms that practice sustainable methods of crop rotation that is better for us and for the environment since it reduces the use of fertilizers and pesticides that end up in our foods. Buying direct from the farmer from farmer's markets or Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) programs helps these family farmers stay in business and keep the money in the community. Buying from farmer's markets or CSA is typically less expensive as well since there are fewer or no middlemen involved.
Another benefit that is less frequently talked about is the public health advantage of locally grown foods from smaller producers. We have seen a number of cases of food borne disease in recent years that have affected hundreds of people over wide geographical areas. Produce that comes from large corporate farms in large quantities that are transported to many locations is much harder to track down when there is a problem. It also results in more cases of food poisoning that are more difficult to limit. Locally grown food can be quickly identified to the source and have many fewer cases of illness.
The disadvantage for many when trying to limit purchases to locally grown produce is adjusting cooking and eating habits to eating seasonal foods only. Tomatoes, avocadoes, fresh greens, and many other items that we are used to being able to buy at any time of the year are limited in availability in the off-season unless they are transported long distances.
Buying locally grown foods when and where you can is well worth the added effort. Support your local farmers and enjoy better tasting and more nutritious produce.
There are currently no comments on this post. Be the first one!