Buying local food does so much more than just putting fresh food on the table. It builds local economies and communities, even inhibiting urban sprawl.
Eating local is easy at this time of year. The farmers’ markets are overflowing with delicious, fresh produce that straddles the seasonal divide between waning summer and bountiful fall. Every week when I pick up my CSA (community supported agriculture) share, I wonder how I’m going to fit it all in the fridge. Bags of cool weather-loving spinach and enormous heads of lettuce vie for space with crisp, sweet carrots, bok choy, broccoli, and green beans. The pantry shelves are loaded with onions, squash, potatoes, and garlic.
Not only is this food good for the body and soul, but it’s also good for the community. There are many reasons why eating local should be a priority throughout the entire year, even when the harvest isn’t as impressive as it is right now. A non-profit food advocacy organization called Strolling of the Heifers created a list of 10 reasons why shopping for local food is important. While these reasons have been articulated many times on TreeHugger, it’s always good to be reminded of why these things matter.
1. Eating local supports local farms. It creates jobs at local farms and in nearby processing and packaging facilities. It shows support for what farmers are doing.
2. It boosts the local economy. “Food dollars spent at local farms and food producers stay in the local economy, creating more jobs at other local businesses.”
3. It requires less travel. When local foods are sold locally, their carbon footprint for travel is much smaller, using less fuel and generating fewer greenhouse gases.
4. There is less waste. The shorter the chain of distribution, the less opportunity there is for food to go waste.
5. Food is fresher, and therefore, more nutritious. Spending less time in transit means fewer nutrients are lost to spoilage.
6. You’ll discover interesting new foods. Thanks to my CSA share I’ve grown to love oddities such as kohlrabi, mustard greens, garlic scapes, and watermelon radishes. These are vegetables I cannot find at the grocery store.
7. It’s good for the gene pool and soil. “Local food encourages diversification of local agriculture which preserves genetic diversity and reduces the reliance on monoculture — single crops grown over a wide area to the detriment of soils.”
8. It’s a tourist attraction. Food-producing areas can become attractive destinations for ‘agritourism,’ bringing additional money into a region.
9. It preserves open space. When there’s demand for food that’s grown in local fields and business is thriving, there’s less demand for suburban sprawl to take over those spaces.
10. It creates more connected communities. People get to know farmers and food producers in their region, creating important support networks and friendships. They also connect with other community members while shopping at a farmers’ market.
There are even more reasons that could be added to this list, such as zero-waste shopping made easier and money saved by purchasing in bulk.