By: Brittany Kuhl MS, RD, LDNs
Have you ever eaten a fresh tomato straight from the garden or farm? If you have, you know just how delightful the tender, juicy vegetable can be. Often, foods from large grocery stores, especially produce, just can’t compete with items that come “straight from the field.”
What does “locally grown” mean?
In recent years, eating local has made its way into the spotlight. But what does local actually mean? Some people may consider local to mean in their city, their county, or their state. Generally speaking, if you want to eat locally, the food should come from somewhere in the nearby area. Eating local can take shape in a variety of ways from shopping at grocery stores selling local products, buying food directly from local farms, and even eating at locally-owned restaurants.
Now that you know what it means, here are three reasons you should start eating local today:
1. Support the Local Economy
One of the primary reasons we should eat locally is to support the economy in our area. Buying food from nearby restaurants, farmers, and sellers stimulates the economy where we live. It provides much-needed support and income to these entrepreneurs, and can even lead to new jobs and businesses in the area.
2. Consume High-Quality, Nutritious Foods
Did you know that the average food item in your grocery store traveled 1500 miles to get to you? For some items, the distance is even further. Produce that must travel long distances is often picked from the vine before it is ripe and is instead, allowed to ripen during the travel time. Soon after they’re picked from the vine, these fruits and vegetables begin to lose essential nutrients. In contrast, food grown by your local farmer is allowed to reach peak ripeness before it’s picked. If you’re in luck, there’s a good chance it was picked the same morning you purchased it!
3. Protect Mother Earth
In addition to changes in the food itself, widespread food distribution has a major impact on the environment. As thousands of pounds of food products travel worldwide, they create significant carbon emissions that affect our planet. By eating foods that only traveled across your city, county, or state, you are helping to reduce your carbon footprint.
Locating Locally Grown Food in Your Community
Now that you know the benefits of eating local, we can let you in on a little secret. Finding locally grown food is easier than you might think! This time of year, farmer’s markets can be found in most cities and are an excellent way to buy produce directly from local farmers. As an added benefit, you may get to try new foods, or even new varieties of some of your favorite produce, as smaller farmers often grow more variety than large, commercial farms.
Another way to eat locally is by joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, where individuals can purchase memberships and on a weekly basis receive a variety of freshly harvested crops. CSA allows farmers a chance to plan early for the upcoming season and guarantees consumers will have an abundance of fresh produce. It’s a win-win!
As you can see there are a variety of ways you can obtain delicious, healthy, and economy-boosting foods in your area. The question is: how will you eat local this summer?