Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Whys And Hows Of Buying Food Locally

By Ariana Mullins

When it comes to buying food, most of us just hop into our cars, drive to our favorite (or most convenient) grocery store, and fill our carts.  We don't give much thought to where the food came from, when it was picked, and how it was produced.  But buying food is a big deal, when it comes to our economy, our environment, our community and our health.  Let's give it a little more thought!

Did you know that...

  • Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on
    supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before
    being sold.
    (This is just American-produced items! Those distances are much longer when we take talk about
    produce imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America, and other
  • We can only afford to do this now because of the artificially low energy
    (although they may not even seem low!) that we currently enjoy, and by externalizing the environmental
    costs of such a wasteful food system. This is to the detriment
    of small farmers by subsidizing large scale, agribusiness-oriented
    with government handouts and artificially cheap energy.
  • This petroleum-based system will not last forever. World oil production has
    already peaked, according to some estimates, and while demand for
    energy continues to grow, supply will soon start dwindling, sending the
    price of energy through the roof.  Food prices will soar, and we will need to focus on energy efficient
    agricultural methods, like smaller-scale organic agriculture, and on
    local production
    wherever possible. The way we are doing food now is simply unsustainable.
  • Cheap energy and agricultural subsidies enable a type of farming system
    that is destroying and polluting our soils and water, weakening
    our communities, and concentrating wealth and power into a few hands.

    It is also threatening the security of our food supplies, as demonstrated
    by the various e-Coli, GMO-contamination, and other health scares that
    are often seen nowadays on the news.
  • Only 18 cents of every dollar, when
    buying at a large supermarket, go to the grower. 82 cents go
    to various unnecessary middlemen.
    Let's support our growers!  Cut the middlemen out, and and buy food directly from the growers.
The large-scale, agribusiness-oriented food systems we support each time we shop for food are bound to fail
on the long term, sunk by their own lack of sustainability. Why
wait until we're forced by circumstance to abandon our destructive
patterns of consumption? We can start now by buying locally grown
food whenever possible. By doing so we'll be helping preserve the
environment, and strengthening our communities by investing our food dollar close to home.

How to Buy More Local Food

There are a few ways to approach supporting local food production, and there are a lot of websites out there to help you (see resources section at the end of this post.)

  • Check the origins.  Even at your local grocery store, you can support local.  Cut out all of the transport waste while shopping at your local supermarket by simply checking labels for the source of your produce.  Choose items with origins closest to you.  Chances are, the food will also be much fresher!
  • Visit a farm, and do some shopping there!  See what's in season, and how it's grown.  Let your farmer know you appreciate them, and buy food there to support the work they are doing.  Prices at farm shops are really great, too!
  • Shop at farmers markets.  The demand for farm-fresh produce has increased greatly in the last few years, and most communities have a farmer's market in their area.    This is also a really fun way to get to know your farmers, and to learn more about your food!
  • Join a CSA.  This is a great way to support sustainable farming practices, get more value for your money, and keep your dollars in your local economy.
  • Plant a garden.   It doesn't get more local than that!  No matter where you are, or how much space you have available, you can definitely grow something to eat.  Not only is it fun and rewarding, but growing your own food is the most sustainable and economical choice of all!
Here's a local farm my family loves to visit.  In October, we stocked up on purple kale, cabbage, and all kinds of winter squash.  We even bought firewood there!
Here are some excellent resources for buying locally:

Sourcing your food from within your own community is incredibly satisfying.  Not only will you be eating better, fresher, more nutritious food, but you will be helping the environment and strengthening your local economy and community!


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