Going Local: The Rewards of Eating Locally-Grown Food
Did you know that a carrot travels about 1,800 miles to land on your salad plate? Learn how eating locally-grown foods can benefit your health as well as the environment.
Did you know that a typical carrot travels about 1,800 miles before it lands on your salad plate?
Caught up in our fast-paced world of quick marts and large grocery stores, most of us don’t give a second thought to where our food comes from.
Enter a new health movement: eating locally. The concept is to buy food produced, grown or raised as close to your home as possible. This includes fruits and vegetables, as well as items like meats, poultry, eggs and milk.
The benefits of “going local”
Of course, you support your local farms and the economy when you choose to eat local foods. But there are other benefits.
It helps the environment.
- Minimizing “food miles” (the distance food travels before reaching store shelves) reduces the fuel it takes to get your food across the state or country.
- Food processors use a large amount of paper and plastic packaging to keep food fresh longer. This packaging becomes waste that is hard to reuse or recycle.
- Small farms tend to use fewer chemicals than large factory farms.
It enhances your nutrition.
- As a general rule, local food is fresher, riper, better-tasting and of overall better quality than commercially produced food that has been shipped thousands of miles.
- Because it’s locally distributed, the food requires minimal preservatives and/or processing.
- When you buy from local farmers, you can find out if the food is free of chemicals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
- Local food may not always look perfect, but it is less likely to wilt and rot before its time.
Sticking close to home
Don’t know where to begin? Start small by replacing one or two food items a week with local produce. Buy only locally grown tomatoes, or use only freshly picked apples in the fall.
Your supermarket may sell local produce. In addition:
Frequent a farmer’s market. Usually open from spring through fall, farmer’s markets offer a full range of produce fresh from local farms. You can also find other local goodies like eggs, breads, jams, honey and flowers.
Pick your own. What could be better than biting into a sweet juicy pear you’ve just picked from a tree? Become familiar with the local farms in your area where you can pick or buy your own fruits or vegetables.
Plant a garden. Gardening is not just good exercise. Growing your own food is a healthy, rewarding pastime. And who doesn’t enjoy walking out the back door and picking a crisp cucumber (no wax) or a ripe red tomato right off the vine?
Join community supported agriculture (CSA) or local food co-op groups. Many farms offer seasonal “shares.” You buy into a share or belong to a co-op, and get seasonal fruits and veggies in return. The money goes toward the cost of growing and distributing a season’s worth of produce.
- Members typically collect their food at a neighborhood site. Some farms deliver.
- Weekly or bimonthly shares consist of a variety of vegetables and fruits, and sometimes other items.Your family will learn to eat what is in season, and to try new foods. Most farms include recipes and suggestions for preparing your fare.
Dine on local cuisine. Find restaurants in your area that use local ingredients. It’s a great way to support local agriculture and enjoy a relaxing meal at the same time.
To find out where you can buy local, seasonal foods in your area, check out the Web site www.localharvest.org.