Fresh and Local: 10 Reasons Why Buying Locally-Produced Food is Important
Hippies get it. They buy most of their veg from local farmers’ markets, co-ops, and gardens. They are willing to seek out and pay for tiny, deep red strawberries that only last a day in the fridge; they rave about the flavor of fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes, and wax poetic about the textures and colors of squashes, lettuces, and beans.
The rest of us throw a plastic bag of pre-cut and washed lettuce of unknown origin into our Walmart shopping cart next to the Oreos and toilet paper and call it a day.
Ok, so maybe the contrast isn't so stark for all of us, but you get what we’re saying.
Some people go out of their way to seek out fresh, high-quality produce from local farmers, while the rest of us eat whatever we find at the supermarket without a second thought.
And why would we take time to consider where our food is grown? There are so many other important things to worry about in life.
But this is important too.
You see, our Birkenstock-clad friends understand some things that perhaps the rest of us don’t fully comprehend, or maybe don’t even know about.
They understand the importance of environmental health, community food security, and nutritious food. These are some of the biggest reasons why buying local produce is so important.
So, let’s dive in and see if we too, can come to gain the same appreciation for farmers’ markets, local co-ops, and home/community gardens that the self-proclaimed nature-lovers, local-food fanatics, and otherwise health-conscious library-goers of the world seem to have.
Here are a Few Reasons Why Local Food is So Important:
And yes, this is very important.
So many people dislike fruits and vegetables, and many of those people have never tasted fresh, local raspberries or had the pleasure of enjoying a stir fry made of vegetables from their back garden.
Eating fresh, local food that tastes amazing helps people to not only eat their fruits and vegetables but to enjoy them and look forward to each season’s offerings with appreciation and excitement.
Because let’s face it, store-bought cucumbers in December can be a bit of a gamble; they’re often bitter and squishy rather than mild and crisp.
This loss of flavor and texture is usually just a result of the food being shipped across the world and being rather old by the time you get it.
Now, which experience do you think encourages a higher intake of nutritious foods? Fresh and light or old and mealy?
Check out this Seasonal Food Guide to see what’s growing right now in your state!
This is largely due to our first point.
Many people don’t realize that much of the flavor in their food comes from the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients in them. The longer food sits around before it’s eaten, the fewer nutrients are left by the time you consume it.
When nutrients are depleted in foods, they not only lose disease-fighting, life-giving nutrients, they lose flavor.
You see, that loss of flavor we referenced with the December cucumber is actually an indication of a loss of nutritional value. So not only do you have to force yourself to choke down this barely-edible vegetable, you’re likely not getting a lot of nutrition for your efforts.
If you want cucumbers in December and you live somewhere cold, see if anyone nearby is growing them indoors. Local, hot-house cucumbers may not be the nutritional goldmine that summer cucs grown in the sun are, but they’re miles better than summer cucumbers from Chile that just spent the last 3 weeks in transit and have very little nutritional value left in them.
Please understand that even in their depleted state, vegetables and fruits offer a nutritious source of food that is far superior to processed foods, so if they’re your only option and you still enjoy them, go ahead and eat them!
3. Food From Small, Local Farms Tends to Have Fewer Chemicals 3
While this is not always the case, in general it holds true.
Many local farms who sell in co-ops, farmers markets, and through CSAs limit their use of pesticides and herbicides to be within organic regulations, but do not pay to become licensed organic farmers.You see, becoming a certified organic farmer is an expensive undertaking that most family farms simply can’t afford.
It’s also important to note that the chemicals farmers use on their crops/land are generally quite expensive, and many small farmers opt to use less or or to forgo use of certain products for financial reasons as well. And, those that do use them, tend to use the bare minimum required to see a financial benefit in their crop yield.
If you shop at a farmers market and have the opportunity, feel free to ask the farmers you buy from what their chemical practices are. Many farmers are nerds and would love to talk about it with you!
When you support local farmers by buying their produce, you are contributing to keeping your local area green and open.
Very often, when farmers cannot afford to keep their businesses afloat, they sell their land to developers who then convert the once green, rolling hills into neighborhoods filled with rows of identical houses, apartment complexes ringed with asphalt, and strip malls growing piles of trash rather than fresh foods.
Buying local can actually help prevent urban sprawl in your community.
5. Local Food Production is a Valuable Source of Education 5
Many Americans don’t really know where their foods come from which can lead to unhealthy and/or unsustainable food choices.
Getting more foods from local sources can help foster a sense of connection with the food you eat while also encouraging healthier, more sustainable choices.
For instance, you’re probably less likely to indulge in processed sweets if you’ve got fresh melons and berries in the fridge. You might be amazed that such wonderful flavors are produced right down the road from you! This kind of appreciation for your food is a lesson greatly lacking in today’s fast food society.
In our increasingly isolated lives dominated by impersonal big box stores like Walmart and online delivery options like Amazon, shopping at your local farmers market can be a great way to foster relationships with people in your community.
Going to a farmer’s market regularly means that you’ll regularly see the farmers who grow your food, and also the fellow locavores (people who eat local foods rather than imported ones) who get their food at the market each week.
If you feel a bit lonely and isolated but aren’t sure how to break out and meet people, start by finding a farmers market or co-op to shop at regularly. Chances are good you’ll meet some friendly locals with similar interests.
There’s no use denying it, most of the foods from grocery stores are pretty limited in terms of genetic diversity.
You might be able to get four or five kinds of tomatoes if you’re lucky, but they’re probably all varieties that were developed for shelf stability rather than flavor and nutrition. It’s a similar story for carrots, potatoes, berries, eggs, meats, and almost everything else.
Out of the thousands and thousands of varieties of foods we could eat as humans, we rely on a very small percentage in our post-industrial world. Not only does this limit our nutritional intake, but it leaves us vulnerable to massive crop failures since different species can survive different situations.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that more than 75% of agricultural genetic diversity was lost in the 20th century! 5
This is where local farming can help.
Small, local farmers are more likely to produce heirloom varieties, or foods that were developed to enhance taste and nutritional value over shelf stability. These biodiverse settings are also more resilient in the face of pests, natural disasters, and other crop-killing events.
You might need to eat or preserve these foods right after buying since they often don’t keep well on a shelf…but that’s the way things should be anyway. Diversity and freshness are important!
8. Eating Locally Supports Local Food Security 5
Remember winter of 2020? I’m sure we all do.
Supermarkets were out of practically everything. From baby food, to produce, to meats and vegetable-based proteins, and of course the all important crop…toilet paper, the shelves were bare.
Eating locally may not bolster your local tushy-cleaning economy, but it will help to ensure that you, your family, and your neighbors will have access to nutritious food, even if the market comes to a halt and the world collapses in on itself.
You see, if your food is coming, at least partially, from a farmer a few miles away, you won’t have to worry about lockdowns in far away places affecting your ability to access those foods. I think we can all get on board with that.
Find a Co-op near you where you can buy fresh, local foods year-round!
Everyone wants to live in the kind of community where people care for one another and look out for each other’s interests and welfare. Shopping and eating locally is a great way to do that for the hardworking farm families that feed you.
It’s very overquoted, but just so fitting: “Be the change you want to see.” Thanks Gandhi, I think I’ll take that as a recommendation to hit up the farmer’s market this weekend and support my farming neighbors.
You can even go visit your local farmers at their farms and engage in some agrotourism by going wine tasting, taking the kids to a pumpkin patch, or organizing a school field trip to see where food comes from!
Find farms that are open to the public near where you live.
One of the biggest reasons that eating locally can be important, and a reason that many people initially start eating locally, is that it can reduce your carbon footprint.
Food that is shipped all over the world is done so by land, sea, and air, and it takes a lot of fossil fuels to do it.
One study found that, “it takes 435 fossil-fuel calories to fly a 5 calorie strawberry from California to New York.” 5 Yikes!
Compare that to getting a pint of strawberries at the local farmer’s market during your Saturday morning bike ride….what a huge difference!
If you want to eat foods that have a smaller carbon footprint, eating locally can be a great way to start.
Wondering what your diet’s carbon footprint is? Check out these links where you can take quizzes, input favorite meals, and average your daily intakes to estimate just how green…or not…your diet is. My Emissions FoodPrint Quiz BBC Climate Change Food Calculator
I’m On Board, Now What?
If you’re feeling excited about the prospect of eating more local foods, but are unsure of how to engage, we’ve got some resources you can check out.
We know that not everyone has a local farmers’ market, or if they do have one, they may not know where it is and what its operating hours are.
If you want to find out what kinds of farm-to-table programs there are in your area, check out the links below:
Local Harvest is a search engine that allows you to put in your zip code and see local food options near you including farmers markets, CSAs, and more.
USDA Local Food Directories is a website run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that helps users find farmers markets, CSAs, U-Pick Farms, and more.
Perhaps you’re reading this wishing you had enough money to buy locally, but you feel like local foods are too expensive. If you receive SNAP benefits, you may be able to use them at your local farmers market or co-op.
Check out this resource from the USDA to see if you could qualify to receive SNAP benefits and share the wealth with your local farmers so you can enjoy a wealth of good health from eating local, fresh foods. Oh SNAP!
Trying to eat locally grown foods is beneficial to your health, your community, and the planet overall. Local foods tend to taste better and be more nutritious; they can also increase food security for your community and be an invaluable source of non-commercial food species to help keep our food pool genetically diverse. Hooray for local foods!
In parting, remember that eating healthy, whole foods, and lots of plant foods, is one of the simplest, safest, and most effective things we can do to promote good health in our bodies. As with every preventative/restorative measure though, sometimes these changes alone are not enough to help our bodies function the way we want or need them to. If you are struggling with health problems, please contact your doctor or other healthcare provider such as a Naturopathic Doctor, Dietitian, or Mental Health Professional, to see if they can offer appropriate guidance and care. We at Wholesome Story believe that healthy communities require community effort, so we advise you to keep your healthcare community aware and involved in your journey as you pursue better health.
- McGill CA. The benefits of eating local foods. Food and Dining Services. https://www.mcgill.ca/foodservices/sustainability/green/local#:~:text=It%27s%20good%20for%20the%20environment,local%20farmers%20and%20other%20producers. Published March 6, 2012. Accessed September 13, 2022.
- Rita Klavinski MSUE. 7 benefits of eating local foods. MSU Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/7_benefits_of_eating_local_foods. Published September 20, 2018. Accessed September 13, 2022.
- Honeycutt E. Why buy local food? it's healthier for you and better for the environment. Food Revolution Network. https://foodrevolution.org/blog/why-buy-local-food/. Published June 17, 2022. Accessed September 13, 2022.
- Grubinger V. Ten Reasons to Buy Local Food. University of Vermont. https://www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/factsheets/buylocal.html. Published 2010. Accessed September 13, 2022.
- Grubinger V. Why buy local? GrowNYC. https://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/ourmarkets/whylocal. Published May 6, 2021. Accessed September 13, 2022.
- Krug CJ. Importance of genetic diversity in agriculture. Medium. https://medium.com/thenextnorm/importance-of-genetic-diversity-in-agriculture-b9f88f5fda55. Published July 23, 2018. Accessed September 13, 2022.