Benefits Of Buying Local Food
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Soon farmers markets and roadside stands will be open and offering early spring crops such as rhubarb and asparagus. Also, growers who have greenhouses or hoop houses can offer greens early in the growing season. After what seemed like a long, cold winter season the chance to have locally grown food available to add to meals is irresistible.
As the growing season starts and gets into full swing, you should think about how you can add more locally grown foods to your menus. By doing so you are supporting the many benefits of locally grown food.
Supermarkets offer variety and, more importantly, convenience. However, this does not necessarily make supermarkets the right choice. With growing numbers of local producers and retailers, there are many reasons to buy local food.
Local food is food that is grown or produced locally to where we live, nearer the physical centers of our communities and the places we spend time. Whether it is in your town or a nearby city, if it is fresh and locally grown, then it is considered to be local food.
The range of foods that we consider to be local foods is wide and varied. Local foods commonly include fruit and vegetables grown on smaller farms or even in someone's back garden or a community plot.
Local food can also include dairy, eggs, or even meat. Similarly, in many locations, we can source products, including preserves and honey, from local farms and producers. In fact, the list goes on as it can include cheese, butter, and more. Of course, what is available locally will vary significantly from place to place. See our section below on how to find local food near you.
When you choose to purchase locally, you can make a real difference in many ways. The many reasons to buy local food include lesser transport costs and environmental impacts through fewer pesticides. It also provides access to the freshest produce possible. Local food brings with it a huge array of benefits.
Further, anything perishable or with a relatively short shelf life, like fruit and veg, will almost certainly have been air freighted. Perhaps unsurprisingly, air freighting our food emits more polluting C02 than any other form of transport, such as road or ship. Of course, as we face up to the challenges of climate change, each and every pack of strawberries landed in the UK in the winter adds to the environmental cost of our food.
Most locally purchased seasonal goods grow more naturally, for example, outside rather than in greenhouses. Further, growers use fewer fertilizers in season, and many local producers choose to grow organically.
The benefits of seasonal produce can also go beyond natural growing and even aid our nutrition. One study compared the vitamin c contents of broccoli is grown both in and out of season. The findings speak for themselves, with the in-season broccoli containing nearly twice as much vitamin c as the less naturally produced out-of-season sample. Therefore, seasonal produce is a clear reason to buy local food.
Unlike in past decades, many consumers now have considerably less understanding of where their food comes from. To illustrate the point, a survey by the British Nutrition Foundation found that a tenth of secondary-aged pupils believed that tomatoes grow underground. Whilst almost a third thought that we make cheese from plants.
Despite this, more and more people are now thinking about where their food comes from. When buying locally directly from the farmer or grower, consumers get to learn about the food, how it is grown and where it comes from.
Connecting people, both young and old, with where their food comes from inevitably helps people to make better choices6. In fact, studies have shown that knowledge is a key motivator. Enhancing knowledge of where our food comes from in our local communities can help promote healthier and more environmentally friendly food choices.
Locally grown produce rarely uses the mass production technologies used in commercial farming. As a result, farmers selling locally often grow wider varieties of produce in a smaller space to meet local needs.
Growing a variety of crops on local land helps maintain a more natural balance. For example, winter crops die off in the summer, and the resulting composted stems and leaves fertilize the land for subsequent summer crops. (and vice versa).
Further, many local producers are experimenting with more natural ways to maintain their crops and improve yields. For example, growing wildflowers near crops can encourage more bees to the area, which in turn allows for improved natural fertilization. Rotating crops also helps keep the soil healthy, which rarely happens naturally at large producers of a single variety of fruit or veg.
Behind the scenes, a great deal of effort has gone into presenting and packaging supermarket produce according to what sells. A study in 2018 by the University of Edinborough found that nearly a third of our fruit and vegetables are too ugly to retail according to the cosmetic standards imposed by supermarkets1. Much of this is simply thrown away, adding to the global food waste problem.
Of course, we consumers have a part to play in all this by being more accepting of uglier fruit and veg. And hence another reason to buy local food. It can help this issue as many growers will not look to quite the same standards. A crooked carrot tastes just as good; pick one up today from a local grower and do a small bit to prevent food waste.
Of course, many of the reasons to buy local food require farmers near you. Without consumer support, small-hold farmers can struggle to produce food viably. However, purchasing local produce can provide the means and incentive for farmers to keep tending their land and providing fresh produce.
When choosing to buy more local food support, you help to support local growers near you. Without needing to factor in the cost of transportation or distribution, local farming can be both sustainable and viable with the right level of local support.
Further, with growing demand, they might also be able to supply their produce to local restaurants. And as restaurants use more local produce and more people get behind buying local, in turn, more custom will result. As a result, you are also helping restaurants to thrive and supporting the local economy8, which means more business for local farmers.
It is all too easy to support supermarkets while forgetting about local producers. Choosing to spend your money on local produce helps ensure that the money stays in your community2- another great reason to buy local food.
Somehow getting your hands dirty growing or purchasing and then eating local food can provide more links, talking points, and commonality in any community. Certainly more so than passing each other by silently in the supermarket aisles with shopping trolleys full of plastic-wrapped mass-produced goods.
When you choose to buy more locally, you are also supporting job creation. If local producers can grow and need to increase productivity, then they will need workers. Therefore, by purchasing locally, you are helping to create local employment opportunities.
Many families have farmed all their lives and for generations. Therefore, for many, it is all that they know. Many farms are run by families, and this way of life means everything to them. By purchasing local food, you are helping to keep farms going.
Mass-produced produce typically requires some type of mechanical processing. From diesel-powered tractors to picking and sorting machines. Each of these requires energy to run, typically drawn from C02-producing fossil fuel sources. Smaller-scale local production is usually less mechanized, which is better for the environment.
Further, the pesticides and chemicals used in large-scale farming regularly run off the land into nearby waterways. As a result, causing problems for local fish stocks and can pollute these delicate habitats, which are home to a variety of wildlife.
There is something quite exciting about picking your own produce. This is a great option if you have children too. Commonly, during the summer months, local growers will open their fields and allow consumers to pick their own produce.
Many small, independent stores are now going local when it comes to food. Eating local food is easy when local stores stock fresh produce. Many of these foods will be clearly labeled in the store. This way, consumers know what they are getting and where it came from.
It is now possible to buy locally grown food by having it delivered. Many businesses now work with farmers to distribute their products to the community. Therefore, for a fee, you can either sign up to have produce delivered regularly, or you can make one-off purchases. Whatever you choose, it can all help local producers.
As consumers, we have the right to choose to purchase locally-grown food. However, supermarkets have carried the mantle for too long. Despite this, consumers now have more of a voice than ever before.
Many now realize that only buying perfectly shaped produce is wasteful. We also don't want produce that is covered in preservatives. Rather a growing percentage of consumers now want goods that are fresh and available all year round from a local market or farmer.
It is important that we educate ourselves and our children about our food. There is no doubt that we should have the option to make a change. We can support local businesses and make use of delicious produce. There is no doubt that local food should be the better choice.
There are several factors that influence the nutritive value of produce including crop variety, how it's grown, ripeness at harvest, storage, processing and packaging. Its vitamin and mineral content depends on the practices of people all along the line, from the seed to the table, whether or not produce is local or transported from a distance.
Being able to eat locally depends on the production ability of your area. People living in regions with