What makes local food so important? Here are our top ten reasons why local food is wonderful!
1. Local food tastes better.
When you choose local, your food travels a shorter distance from the farm to your plate, meaning you get the freshest fruits and vegetables at the peak of the season. Local food is tastier because it is allowed to ripen on the vine or because it was recently made with whole ingredients and lots of care. You can taste the difference when you bite into a local tomato in the summer or fresh baked bread made from scratch.
Local food packs more nutrition because it is less processed and has more of the things you want like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and protein; and it has less of the things you don’t want, like additives, preservatives, and other chemicals. It has been shown that people that shop at farmers markets often eat more fruits and vegetables and are more active in general.
3. Local food supports farmers and entrepreneurs.
For every $10 spent on local food, $8-9 can be retained by that family business. That means more of your food dollars are staying in the local economy and benefiting farmers and food entrepreneurs. For example, when you join a CSA (community supported agriculture) program you receive fresh, delicious food while directly sustaining that farmer or business owner’s livelihood.
The true cost of the food produced by conventional agriculture is largely hidden from the consumer and subsidized by tax dollars. As a result, our taxes pay for increased healthcare costs due to diet related diseases, for more public assistance programs to aid low-wage workers, and for costs associated with environmental degradation. Supporting direct to consumer local food businesses means supporting livable wages, more jobs, and more money circulating in the local economy.
5. Local food builds vibrant communities.
When you buy, grow, and eat local food, you are also building a more connected community. You have more opportunity to interact with farmers and food entrepreneurs at farmers markets, with your neighbors when you are growing together in community gardens and backyards, and with your family when you are sharing homemade meals around the table together.
6. Local food is safe.
With a shorter supply chain, local food passes through fewer hands and there are fewer opportunities for contamination. In conventional agriculture, much of the produce harvesting, cleaning, and safety inspection is mechanized. Local food producers often employ more sustainable growing and harvesting practices and a hands-on, more personal approach to the whole process.
7. Local food preserves green spaces.
Whether through urban agriculture, community gardens, small farms and ranches, school gardens, rooftop gardens, or urban food forests, local food creates and preserves green outdoor spaces to reconnect with nature and relearn where your food comes from. These spaces are not unlike parks in that they provide recreation and tourism opportunities, but they also provide fresh, tasty food and their presence improves air quality in the area.
Local food purchased in season and directly from a producer through CSAs, farmers markets, or cooperatives is often less expensive than its conventional counterparts. And if it’s on sale locally, you know it’s in season and at the peak of ripeness. Additionally, growing your own food is the surest way you can provide affordable, healthy food for your family. If you have an especially green thumb, it may also be an opportunity to make a few extra dollars selling at the farmers market or through a local gardeners’ co-op.
9. Local food is good for the environment.
Locally and sustainably produced food improves the health of our environment. Local agriculture builds healthy soils, which facilitate increased carbon sequestration and leads to cleaner air; less agricultural runoff keeps drinking water clean and improves wildlife habitats; and composting and recycling diverts food waste from landfills and reduces the amount of methane released into the environment. In fact, eating local is one of the single most impactful choices you can make to reduce your individual carbon footprint.
In the last century, we have lost 75% of the genetic diversity in the foods we grow and eat. Most of the food produced worldwide now consists of one of four types of crops: corn, wheat, rice, and potatoes. Small farmers and gardeners grow heritage and native varieties of produce and save and share seeds that are especially adapted for the regions in which they grow. Biodiversity makes our local food system more secure because we are less dependent on a small group of vulnerable crops, and we have the added benefit of trying new and different varieties of our favorite fruits and vegetables.