So often when people are challenged by their budgets, they ask us why shopping local costs so much more and why they should spend so much more for butter and apples. So we caught up with Carlton Jackson, one of the organizers of Local Food Mondays, to get his answer. Turns out, he has six of them.
1. Locally grown food tastes better and is better for you.
Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Produce flown or trucked in from 1,500 miles away, the average distance food travels from farm to plate, has lost its flavor, vitality, and many of its nutrients. Also, recent studies have show that food grown with the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers contains fewer antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
2. Local food protects genetic diversity.
In the modern industrial agricultural system, a handful of hybrid varieties of produce are developed and grown for certain qualities like the ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand harvesting equipment; a tough skin that can survive packing and shipping; and for an ability to have a long shelf life in the store. Local farms, in contrast, grow a huge number of varieties to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors, and the best flavors. Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation, because they taste good. These old varieties contain genetic material from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selection. Also, local food is free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) used by huge agribusiness.
3. Local food helps local farm families and builds communities.
For the last 30 years and more, farmers have been increasingly driven out by competition from huge agribusiness. The farmer now gets less than 10 cents of every retail food dollar with the bulk of the money going to huge processors. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food – which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the work they love. When you shop at a farmers’ market, you are giving your local farmers the opportunity to obtain a fair and reasonable price for their goods. This directly benefits your community by keeping more of your food dollars at home where they can be spent locally. And when you buy direct from the farmer, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection between the eater and the grower. Knowing the farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the weather, and the miracle of raising food.
4. Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife.
A well-managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued. Good stewards of the land grow cover crops to prevent erosion and replace nutrients used by their crops. The habitat of a farm – the patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings – is the perfect environment for many beloved species of wildlife, including bluebirds, herons, bats, and rabbits.
5. Local sustainable food reduces our dependence on fossil fuels.
A study at the University of Michigan found that 20 percent of our fossil fuel consumption is going towards feeding ourselves. While as much as forty percent of the energy used in the food system goes towards the production of artificial fertilizers and pesticides, most of the rest goes towards distribution. Local, sustainable farming practices have the potential to reduce fossil fuel dependence by eliminating wasteful production practices. Small, sustainable farms help reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels by selling their products locally. The closer the farm is to you, the less fuel is needed to transport its food directly to your table.
6. Local food is about the future.
By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful, and abundant food.