I’m preparing to spend the long Independence Day weekend with family, so I thought I’d do a flashback to a post I wrote in 2007 about choosing local foods. Four years later, these reasons are every bit as valid, if not more so now with the troubled world economy. Have a festive Fourth, and take time while you’re feasting and summer-funning to remember all those who’ve given their lives for our American freedom!
- Eating local means more money for your local economy. If you spend the money in your hometown, the money stays in your hometown. According to a study by the New Economics Foundation in London, a dollar spent locally generates twice as much income for the local economy. When you spend money with businesses that are not locally owned, the money leaves the community at every transaction.
- Locally grown produce is fresher (and tastes better). Think about it. Produce (and meat) that is purchased in the supermarket has been in transit or cold-stored for days or weeks. But produce that you purchase at your local farmer’s market or meat from your local ranch is fresher — it didn’t have to spend all that time traveling to you. This freshness not only affects the taste of your food, but the nutritional value, which can decline with time.
- Eating local is better for air quality and pollution than eating organic. In a March 2005 study by the journal Food Policy, it was found that the miles that organic food often travels to our plates creates environmental damage that outweighs the benefit of buying organic. Food produced outside of your area has to be shipped in, by boat, plane or truck, which uses fuel and adds to the already suffocating mass of carbon in the air.
- Buying local food keeps us in touch with the seasons. By eating with the seasons, we are eating foods when they are at their peak taste, are most abundant, and are the least expensive. It will also give you a new appreciation of how the weather affects your food, what the seasons have to offer and a chance to experiment with seasonal foods when they’re at their best.
- Buying locally grown food means you can know where it came from and how it was made. Whether it’s the farmer who brings local apples to market, the baker who makes local bread or the rancher that bred the cow that made your hamburger, knowing part of the story about your food is such a powerful part of enjoying a meal. It also gives you the information you really need to assess how nutritional the food is and, if you eat meat, how humanely the animal was treated during its life as well as its lifestyle, which plays a huge part in the taste and nutrients in the meat.
- Local food equals more variety. When a farmer is producing food that does not have to travel a long distance, will have a shorter shelf life, and does not have a high-yield demand, the farmer is free to experiment with small crops of various fruits and vegetables that would probably never make it to a large supermarket. Supermarkets are interested in selling “name brand” fruit — the standards you know by name: Romaine Lettuce, Red Delicious Apples, Russet Potatoes. Local producers often play with their crops from year to year, trying out Little Gem Lettuce, Senshu Apples, and Chieftain Potatoes.
- Supporting local providers supports responsible land development. When you buy local, you give those who own the land, such as farms and pastures, an economic reason to stay undeveloped. Wouldn’t you rather have greenspace than another fast food chain or coffee shop?