So many of us are trying desperately to eat healthier and actually enjoy it, but we're unable to see what can be incredibly beneficial to our diet that is so close to use: locally grown food. Locally grown food can help improve our diets, healthy, the environment, and the economy! Keep reading to learn how.
I will never forget the first time I ate a locally grown strawberry. As a young adult, I thought I simply didn't like strawberries. They weren't very sweet, weren't very juicy, and simply did nothing for me. Until I got an apprenticeship on a local strawberry farm. I remember training the first week and one of the owner's telling us "I haven't eaten a store bought strawberry in the last 40+ years I've been here."
I internally rolled my eyes thinking, "Well duh, you're biased." until I finally experienced what she experienced. Toward the end of the season, they let us interns and apprentices harvest a pint of strawberries to take home. After 4 weeks of working on the strawberry farm I finally ate one of their strawberries and my world changed.
It was juicy, bright red, and SO sweet. I tried just one on the ride home from work, expecting to bring the pint home to my family. Instead, I finished the entire pint on that 15 minute drive. Why? Because it's flavor and quality was unbelievable. It was picked at peak ripeness, and as I learned, was exactly what a strawberry should taste like.
Unfortunately, being raised in environments in which we are used to buying foods that have been shipped from different parts of the country, or even the world, we lose so much quality in our foods. Quality we didn't even know existed!
Why should you eat locally grown foods?
Food Has More Flavor
Locally grown produce is picked at peak ripeness, allowing it to be more flavorful. It's also grown and picked at it's ideal time of the year, allowing for optimal growing conditions. Most produce in retail stores is picked before it’s ripe to withstand shipping and holding in stores, making it have a lower quality flavor profile.
Higher in Nutrients
Picking produce that’s in season and at peak ripeness means that it’s also higher in nutrients as opposed to produce picked before fully ripe. Allowing the produce to grow until it's fully ripe allows it's nutrient profile to fully develop, giving you more nutrients than foods shipped from across the country.
Helps Reduce Carbon Footprint
Most produce in retail stores is shipped from farms thousands of miles away, contributing to carbon emissions. Purchasing local produce promotes a lower consumption of greenhouse gas emissions because the produce simply doesn't have to travel more than a few miles! If you pick your produce up at a Farmer's Market, you can trust that the farmer probably didn't travel more than a 30 minute drive. Or if you purchase a CSA, you know exactly how far you're traveling to pick it up.
Helps Protect Small Farm Land
Purchasing local invests in small farms, preventing their land from being developed into industrial or corporate land. Developing land for corporate or industrial parks eliminates biodiversity in that area. If left undeveloped, farm land allows a place for birds, insects, and other animals to live and prosper. Many crops even create an ideal home for bees, whose populations are quickly declining (and are SO important for our food systems).
Lower in Pesticides and Preservatives
Small farms tend to use organic or sustainable farming methods to promote the quality of their land and crops, as opposed to large agricultural businesses with mass spray their crops. The produce of smaller farms doesn't travel as far as large agricultural businesses, meaning they don't have to worry about their crops going bad as fast as large businesses. As a result, they tend to use less pesticides and preservatives, which is healthier for you and the environment!
Even livestock on small family farms tends to receive less treatment of antibiotics and hormones--only used on as as needed basis, compared to being heavily relied on. It's important to note that the reason why antibiotics in livestock is frowned upon is because in large corporations they are used routinely due to overcrowding issues. In contrast, small farms administer antibiotics and hormones only when their livestock is sick. Why? Because just like people, sometimes animals get sick too.
Where can you buy local produce?
The best way to find local produce is to visit your local farmer's market. If you're unaware if your town has a farmer's market, contact your Chamber of Commerce. Although not frequently updated, the USDA has a list of Farmer's Markets in your area https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets
BUT what if you still can't find one near you? GUESS WHAT?! Fortunately, we live in the year 2018, where googling or facebook searching events is very easy. Try searching either for farmer's markets in your area.
Don't have time to visit a Farmer's Market weekly, or even know what produce to buy?
So many farms do that work for you by providing CSAs (community supported agriculture). At the beginning of the season, contact a local farm to purchase a CSA, allowing you to pick up a box or bag of produce WEEKLY--no thought necessary on your end!
Have anything to add? Feel free to comment below on how local produce fits into your life!