There’s a movement that’s been trending for a couple of years now. The people of this movement call themselves “locavores,” and they eat only foods grown within 100 miles of their home. The benefits of eating local foods are many: supporting local farmers, boosting the economy of a community, getting to know where your food comes from, improved nutrient density of foods, it’s environmentally-friendly, and it’s a cheaper alternative to buying organic.
Supporting local farmers is incredibly important because there are less than 1 million farmers currently living and working in the United States. This means that a lot of our food is grown outside of the country and imported into our grocery stores and supermarkets. Buying from a farmers market or directly from a farm puts money straight back into your community.
Investing in community-supported agriculture, also known as a “CSA,” lets you see where your food is grown. You can see first-hand that your tomatoes aren’t grown in hot houses or fed growth hormones. Your kids can see the plants that their food grows off of and marvel in how amazing it is that an eggplant is grown from a flower. (Did you know that?)
Eating locally also improves your health.Nature provided us with food that’s right for our climate and the season. Also, when food travels from farm to store to table, it can lose up to 50% of its nutrients. That means that in order to get the same amount of nutrients you’d get from garden-fresh foods, you’d have to eat twice as much! Small farmers are also very aware of the quality of their soil; a key factor in determining the nutrient density of the food that you’re eating. The nutrients in the soil are directly proportionate to the nutrients in the food you’re eating. Factory farms that mono-crop (meaning they plants only one type of plant) greatly deplete the nutrients in their soil and are not overly concerned with the effect that has on their produce. Family farms test their soil and replace nutrients that are missing, so that their produce is of higher quality.
What about organic? Turns out a lot of local farmers who are not certified organic actually use organic and sustainable practices on their farms. Qualifying to be an organic farm is a long and expensive process. Oftentimes small farms will not get the certification, even if their produce is organic. Ask your local farmers how their produce is grown. You’re looking for an answer that doesn’t include the words pesticides, herbicides, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), and fertilizer with growth hormones.
The average food on your plate travels 1,500 miles to get there. Can you believe it?! This includes factors such as importing foods (think: Turkish apricots), trucking food cross-country (think: Idaho potatoes), and the gas used on farms to operate machinery, drive produce around, and getting to a processing plant. Processing foods also requires a great deal of energy. So you can see how eating more local foods, meaning within 100 miles of your home, is more eco-friendly.
Quite often we hear the myth that healthy food costs more. Besides the fact that studies have shown that it can actually be more cost-efficient AND saves you money on healthcare in the long-term, isn’t your family’s health worth it? In an effort to make local foods more accessible to the general public, farmers markets are cropping up all over the place, and to make things even better, food stamps can be used at farmers markets to buy twice as much produce as the stamps would buy at a supermarket. How’s that for cost-effective?
Now, don’t feel as though you have to go out now and buy only local foods. That’s absolutely not necessary. Keep in mind, however, that the more local you buy, the better it is for your economy, health, and the environment. Every little bit counts.