Eating locally is not a new concept but has gained popularity in the last five years or so. We used to eat locally- it is just how we used to do things. We ate at home, around the table, with our family. We ate what we grew in our garden and on our land.
Today eating local and sustainable is becoming a movement of sorts.
Eating from locally grown food sources often means food has more flavor and is more nutrient dense. Along with nutrients, flavor peaks at harvest. When food is ripened in the field it has more flavor and better texture. It also doesn’t have to be treated with preservatives to keep it from spoiling. Nutrient loss begins the moment food is harvested. Broccoli begins to lose its cancer fighting properties within 24 hours of being picked. Much of foods medicinal properties were lost when we stopped eating locally. When your produce is picked at peak ripeness vs. being picked early and shipped across the country, you benefit from getting your food sooner.
Eating locally means eating seasonally too. Doing this adds variety to your diet because you eat what is available. Processed foods make up 70% of the average Americans Diet. The world has over 50,000 edible plants and 3 of those (corn, rice and wheat) make up 60% of the worlds consumption. Building a meal around foods just harvested connects us to the calendar and to each other We are reminded of simple things like fresh watermelon at the end of summer or slicing a fresh juicy tomato.
When you buy from local farmers you are supporting the local economy. Large scale farms only receive $.20 for every $1.00 you spend. Local farmers receive 100% of the value of their product which they can reinvest in the local economy. It is often cheaper for you to purchase from your local farmer especially when you consider you are getting a more nutrient dense product.
You support a cleaner environment. By keeping farms in your community you support green space in the community. Commercial or factory farms use harsh chemicals that damage the microbiome of the soil and depletes nutrients that would otherwise go into your food. For example, almost everyone is deficient in magnesium because most of the soil is deficient in it as well. Local farms often practice sustainability and care for the land they use so it remains healthy. They often use little to no chemicals on their crops, they compost, have a smaller carbon footprint and use little to no packaging. Scientific studies have proven the nutrient density of produce to be higher when grown on land using sustainable practices. Industrial or factory farming pollutes the air, our surface groundwater and the communities in which they reside. Factory farms also degrade the quality of the soil. Today, because of the way we farm the topsoil is only about 8 inches deep when it used to be around 18 inches deep. For every bushel of corn harvested we lose two bushels of topsoil. Confined farm animals generate more than 450 million tons of waste per year which is 3 times the amount that humans generate. The anti-biotics given to factory farmed animals (factory farms are the number one consumer of anti biotics) enter the environment through the ground water and through the meat of the animals as well. The manure from the factory farms causes high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen to go in to the water supply, hurting aquatic life.
You promote a safer food supply. The average commute for produce in the grocery store is 1500 miles before it reaches your plate. Buying fresh from the store often means it is harvested before it is at its nutritional peak (meaning before it is ready). The more steps between you and your food source, the greater chance of some kind of contamination happening. Buying from a local farmer means you get to know who is growing your food. You can ask them questions about their practices as well. Usually they are happy to talk with you.
Local does not always equal sustainability. There is no regulation in using the term local. Dont’ be afraid to ask about the farms production practices. Most family farmers will gladly tell you what they do. Check out this website or this website for more information on eating locally. We ate at a restaurant tonight that sources all of their food locally when possible. I had a strawberry salad with greens grown in the restaurants back yard and locally grown strawberries. What a treat! Tell me in the comments below what are your favorite locally grown foods?