Most of us are becoming increasingly aware of how important it is for our environment AND for our health that we support local farmers in our own areas. Supporting our local farmers builds stronger communities and protects the land where we live.
Unfortunately, much of the food in our country is produced hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles from where it is consumed requiring significant energy consumption for handling, transportation and storage. There is also a tremendous amount of food that spoils during its journey. Studies show that an incredible 40 to 50 percent of all food harvested for consumption never even gets eaten. And in the US alone, one billion dollars a year is spent just to dispose of food waste. Throwing your food away in the garbage is not a benign act. The methane gases produced from food rotting in the landfill is 21 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.
Think about these facts:
- The amount of energy wasted amounts to about 1,400 calories per person per day
- One quarter of the US annual consumption of freshwater is wasted
- 300 million barrels of oil are used to produce food that is eventually wasted
The benefits of EATING LOCAL:
- Local food means local money ~ Did you know that only 18 cents of every dollar, when buying at a large supermarket, go to the grower? Buying from your local farmer versus a big supermarket keeps twice the amount of money in the local economy.
- Local food means fresh food ~ Because local food is usually sold within 24 hours of being picked, it is fresher and tastes better than food transported for many miles from far away places. Since fruits and vegetables start losing vitamins and other nutrients from the minute they are picked, that short travel time is important to their overall nutritional impact. And it keeps longer in your fridge at home, reducing spoilage.
- Buying local is GREEN ~ Buying local decreases our carbon footprint. Our precious Earth is under a great deal of stress due to human consumption. Supporting local farmers reduces the use of fossil fuels. Smaller farms are more likely to use environmentally friendly production methods including organic farming, which does not use artificial or chemical fertilizers and hormones.
- Local food is good for the community ~ Buying from local farmers supports them staying in the community. Keeping more local lands as small farms and pastures keeps the areas we live in vibrant and alive, reducing land development. Our communities benefit from having more nature to enjoy. And when local businesses thrive, more money in cycled back into our communities.
- Eating local keeps us connected to the seasons ~ Buying local food begins to teach us how to eat seasonally. Not everything is available all year round. And you may find yourself trying things you have never had before. Buying food when it is most abundant also means that it is less expensive. And who doesn’t want to save money on their food bill?
- Buying local connects us to the source ~ When we know the farmer who produces our food, we begin to know the story of where out food comes from. This connection leads to a more connected sort of relationship with our food that makes eating it more enjoyable. Our children learn how our food is produced and learn the importance of sustainable food practices when we introduce local foods and farms to them.
Take the Local Challenge
Portland, Oregon’s EcoTrust has launched a campaign, the Eat Local Challenge, to encourage people to eat locally for a week so they can see—and taste—the benefits. The organization provides an “Eat Local Scorecard” to those willing to try. Participants must commit to spending 10 percent of their grocery budget on local foods grown within a 100-mile radius of home. In addition, they are asked to try one new fruit or vegetable each day, and to freeze or otherwise preserve some food to enjoy later in the year.
Do you eat local? Is there easy access to local foods in your area??