Contributed by Sarah Hancock
Locally grown food refers to food grown near where you live–or, if you’re away from home, near where you shop.
In other words, locally grown food may be raised in your backyard, neighborhood, city, county, state, or region. It doesn’t come from across the country or across the world.
You can purchase a variety of foods from local producers:
- Produce, such as fruits and vegetables
- Dairy products, such as milk and cheese
- Meat, such as chicken, pork, beef, and lamb
Common places to buy locally grown food include:
- Farmers markets
- Food stands
- Local grocery stores
- Local food delivery programs
Many advantages come from eating locally grown food, including the following:
1. It helps the environment
When you buy and eat local, the environment benefits in several ways.
First, buying locally grown food helps to protect and preserve farmland and open space in your community. It prevents land development and enhances biodiversity.
Second, choosing to eat local food minimizes the distance that the food must be transported from the farm to your table. Reducing transportation reduces fossil fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution.
Third, supporting small-scale farming assists in safeguarding genetic diversity. Local farmers often grow several crop varieties in an effort to provide a long harvest season. Alternatively, large-scale commercial agriculture operations often choose specific genetic strands. These strands are selected for their ability to ripen invariably, survive harvesting and packing, and endure a long shelf life.
2. It’s good for your health
In many cases, local foods retain more nutrients than imported foods. Local, small-scale farmers typically pick crops when they are fresh, ripe, and in season. These foods quickly find their way to your table. Imported foods, on the other hand, are usually picked before they fully ripen.
Then, they are treated with preservatives to ensure they withstand the long trip to your grocery store.
Additionally, local farmers often use organic repellents rather than pesticides, which further reduces the amount of chemicals the produce has received.
In addition to a higher likelihood of being preservative- and pesticide-free, locally grown foods can have some less-obvious positive health impacts. When you eat local, you decrease your intake of processed, packaged foods. You also incorporate more natural fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins into your diet.
3. It tastes good
Locally grown food is typically picked at the peak of its ripeness and then sold within a day or so. This means that it’s usually incredibly fresh and packed with flavor.
4. It offers variety
Farmers often plant an array of different crops. When you shop for locally grown foods, you might find that you discover fruits and vegetables that you’ve never tried or even heard of before. Eating local is a great way to try something new and expand your palate. Plus, you’ll be able to eat a variety of flavorful, nutrient-dense produce throughout the year depending on what’s in season.
5. It’s safe
When food has to travel a long distance from the point of production to the point of purchase, it usually passes through several different environments. Many people handle it before you can eat it. This increases the risk of contamination. Further, food produced in other countries may encounter food safety issues when harvested, washed, and prepared to ship. Shopping local can help you to better avoid these risks and may result in safer food for you and your family.
6. It provides peace of mind
Purchasing locally grown food allows you to better understand where your food was raised, who raised it, and how it was produced. If you buy directly from a farmer, you can ask him:
- which practices he followed to grow the food
- when he harvested it
- which pesticides he used and how much
Knowing such answers provides awareness, sheds light on what really fuels your body and gives you more power as a consumer.
7. It boosts your local economy
Spending your dollars on locally grown food supports farmers in your community. This allows them to continue to provide sustainable food to you and those around you. It also keeps money within your local economy, which helps to strengthen other small businesses and creates more jobs and opportunities in your area.
8. It encourages community and connection
When you buy from local food growers, you support and create personal relationships with other individuals in your area. You help build a network and fosters a sense of togetherness in your community.
About the author: Sarah Hancock is passionate about renewable energy, green living, and sustainability. She frequently writes about these topics and is the Chief Editor of BestCompany.com’s solar energy blog. You can connect with her on Twitter.