What is Eating Local?
Are you a locavore? Do you only eat food that has been grown within 100 miles of your home? Do you regularly head over to your local farm and pick up some fresh peaches? Do you go to a farmers market once a week to stock up on fresh produce? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, than you probably already know the benefits and philosophy behind eating locally grown food. The decision to eat locally grown and produced food is often a conscious response to the mass-market production of not only produce, but meats and dairy. Developing personal relationships with those who provide us our food, at farmers markets for example, is healthy not only for the body, but for the mind and planet. Other reasons are that eating local puts us in touch with the seasons and can actually offer more variety. By focusing recipes on what is in season, and buying the produce that is in season, you are guaranteed to have great tasting healthy meals. A strawberry that is sourced locally and thus in season, is guaranteed to taste better than a strawberry shipped from thousands of miles away.
Environmentally, local food is healthier for the planet than conventional food. Our current food transportation system, while it allows us to have all types of produce all seasons long, uses a lot of energy and resources. Think of the carbon footprint between flying or driving cartons of tomatoes from California to New York, versus the farmer driving ten miles to the market. Locally grown food is also picked at optimum ripeness and freshness, which means the nutrients have had time to develop. Conventional produce that is shipped a long way ripens on the journey, and the more exposure to oxygen and light not being on the vine means less nutrients.
Where do I get local food?
The easiest way is to shop at a farmers market! Most consumers who focus on eating locally shop at farmers market, and build relationships with farmers who bring their goods to the farmers market. More and more grocery stores are putting where the produce has come from on the signs at the grocery store – but this is not required under current law. It is often tricky to figure out where products have come from at the grocery store, but it is becoming easier with produce that is sold at the grocery store. Farm stands or actual farms, if available in your community, are other great alternatives.
A great resource to find local markets: http://www.localharvest.org/.