In Defense of Local Food

By Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS, CDN

Food is expensive. With the rise of big box stores, access to and affordability of food, healthy or otherwise, has fast become the way to go for most. Going to Costco, Target, Trader Joes, and others is not a bad thing and each has a place.

However, striking a balance between that and tapping into what your local community can offer is even better. They don’t need to be mutually exclusive.Buying local doesn’t mean cutting off from the outside world, a perception that many have. Rather, it means perhaps, a blending of the two. And, here are 9 reasons that going local makes good sense (adapted from Grow NYC):

1. Safe Food Being able to look a farmer in the eye allows you to ask questions and creates a level of assurance. Local farmers aren't anonymous and they take their responsibility to the consumer seriously.

2. Greater Nutrition The shorter the distance between the farm and your table, the less likely it is that nutrients will be lost from fresh food.

3. Better Taste Contrary to food that is imported from far away, traveled great distances, sat in warehouses, and by nature is older, food from local crops is picked at peak, which allows for the freshest flavor. Plus, farmstead products like cheese are hand crafted for the best flavor then sold directly to you.

4. Supporting Local Local farmers who sell directly to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food, which helps farm families stay on the land. Conversely, wholesale prices that farmers get for their products are low, often near the cost of production, therefore many farm families struggle to survive.

5. Build Community Knowing the farmer gives you insight into the seasons, the land, and your food. When you buy direct, you are engaging in a time-honored connection between eater and grower. Also, local farms provide access to a place where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture.

6. Preserve Land When farmers get paid more for their products locally, they are less likely to sell to developers. In essence, when you buy local food, you are proactively preserving the agricultural landscape.

7. Benefit Environment The farm environment is an array of fields, meadows, woods, ponds, and buildings that provide habitat for wildlife. When well-managed, they conserve fertile soil and clean water in communities.

8. Invest in the Future By supporting local farmers today, you are helping ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow.

9. Preserve Genetic Diversity Small local farms often grow many different varieties of plants to provide a long harvest season, in an array of colors and flavors. By contrast, in the modern agricultural system, plant varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen uniformly, withstand harvesting, survive packing and last on the shelf, so there is limited genetic diversity in large-scale production.

The food Americans consume travels, on average, 1,500 miles before reaching your plate. Fifty years ago, roughly 70-percent of the produce found in grocery stores was grown, produced, and processed within 100 miles. So when questioning if buying local is better than buying organic that is not local, defending local food is a must. The upsides are evident.

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