Is there anything better than strolling through a farmers market on a warm summer morning? My favorite memories of last summer are of my husband, daughter, and me walking through our local market, an almond milk latte in one hand the warm sun on my face. It was just…wonderful.
The best part? Shopping local means having fun and doing good, too.
Shopping local is about more than just spending money. Locally spent dollars help a farmer buy her kids’ school supplies. They help a jewelry maker pay her rent. They support an artist’s passion.
Add in that it just feels good to support the local economy. I mean, c’mon…that’s way better than putting money in a major chain’s pocket, amiright?
But I have another motivation for shopping farmers markets and my local co-op: most of the food in grocery stores is far from fresh.
On average, the food you eat travels about 1,500 miles before it ends up on your plate. That means that foods like strawberries, spinach, garlic, bananas and other nutrient-rich options aren’t always quite so fresh. Instead, they are often picked early and ripened during transport, or they are preserved through freezing, processing or use of preservatives.
Shopping local means the produce you buy is actually, really, truly fresh—just as nature intended.
Making the change to local
Here’s some wonderful news: loads of buyers across the U.S. have started eating local. In a 15-year period, the number of farmers markets across the country increased by over 1,000. Community-supported agriculture (CSA), an arrangement in which buyers pay a yearly fee up front and receive produce throughout the growing season, has grown in popularity, too. In 2010, there were about 1,400 CSAs nationally—up from just two in 1986.
Hooray! I love these statistics.
This exciting trend supports the local economy, encourages healthy families and communities, and even conserves fossil fuel. These “locavores” enjoy diets that are mostly made up of locally grown, raised or produced foods.
Have you thought about joining the movement? Here are seven benefits of going local:
1. Local food is fresh and flavorful.
Locally harvested produce ripens naturally on the plant, rather than artificially in a truck or supermarket, making it much fresher and more flavorful. According to ConsumerReports.org, a survey done at a farmers market in Texas found that 80 percent of the people surveyed shop local because the food is of better quality, and over half said they eat more produce because they shop at a farmers market.
2. Local food is packed with nutrition.
The farther food travels, the more likely it is that the nutrient value will decrease. Local food spends less time in transit. Often times, produce in farmers markets was harvested less than 24 hours prior to purchase.
3. Buying local supports the local economy.
Buying food from local sources directly supports farmers and growers, not to mention the small businesses they buy supplies from and the people they employ.
4. Opting for seasonal and local food expands your food horizons.
Since CSAs usually involve a box of seasonal fruits and veggies weekly or biweekly, they’re a great way to experience new tastes. People who buy into CSAs look forward to making new dishes with their “surprise” produce.
5. Eating local is fun for the whole family.
Many farmers welcome visits to their farms and appreciate forming a relationship with their buyers. This experience not only makes for a fun activity for kids, but it can also help families form lifelong healthy habits.
6. Buying local is way better for the environment.
Supporting farmers also supports farmlands—and helps ward off development of open spaces. Plus, reducing the distance from farm to table reduces pollution from transit vehicles and cuts down on using natural resources like gas.
7. Buying local promotes food safety.
During those 1,500 miles or so of transport, there are multiple opportunities for contamination. Locally grown food tends to be safer to eat because it is exposed to less opportunities for contamination.
If you haven’t yet visited your local farmers market or bought into CSA, why not give one or both of these options a try? To learn more and locate CSAs and farmers markets near you, visit www.localharvest.org.
Your turn: What tips do you have for making the transition to buying local? How do you make sure to buy at least a portion of your food and goods locally?
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