If you’ve been a part of the “foodie” community for any length of time, there’s no doubt that you’ve been extolled on the many virtues of eating local. And for good reason! The benefits transcend economics and stretch over into so many arenas that it’s hard to name them all. Boosting local economics, maintaining better nutrition, and eating food that tastes just as delicious as it looks are a few of the “pros” to eating local. With that being just the beginning, why would anyone do anything else?
The main complaints that seem to surface are price and inconvenience. Local food tends to be more expensive than grocery market produce. A trip to the farmers market requires more planning than a trip to the store down the street. Despite these complaints, I imagine that anyone who truly tried eating locally for awhile would find them easily overcome.
You don’t have to buy only things that are grown or made locally; it’s up to you, the consumer, to decide how much of your produce and other food comes directly from local farms, and how much you rely on the nationally-owned markets. If you need something on a Wednesday and the Farmer’s Market won’t be open until Saturday, there’s no reason not to run down to the store and pick it up. Eating locally can be as small as choosing one product, i.e. tomatoes, and committing to buy only a local variety when possible. And if you’ve ever tasted a just-picked garden tomato, you’ll know this is an excellent choice!
Of course, once you start tasting and eating local produce, you wont be likely to go back to the imported variety that the market offers. So what’s the best way to eat local?
There are Farmer’s Market’s all over the United States, and they are growing in popularity every year. Why? Well, not only does a farmer’s market allow access to a wide variety of local food in one place at one time, but it’s also just plain fun. Local farmers and artisans gather to sell their goods, local musicians play and sing, local chefs will often serve a hot meal, like-minded consumers gather, talk, and swap information about this and that it’s truly a magical event!
If you have questions about ingredients of artisan breads or pastries, you can ask. Spice stands will sell seasoning herbs in all sorts of quantities and combination, and those who run the booth will be glad to bend your ear with tips and ideas for using their products. Produce is lush and colorful, often just-picked and fresh as the country air it comes from. Going to a Farmer’s Market is so much more than picking up those tomatoes that you needed for tomorrow’s salad or the summer squash for that recipe you meant to make. It’s an experience.
Another excellent step toward eating locally is to join a CSA, which stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” Essentially, the consumer pays a certain amount to join, and then the farmer supplies them with a box of fresh produce every week. The produce is comprised of crops that are in season and ripe to be eaten, and often includes vegetables and fruits that might be new to the consumer. Not only are you given the opportunity to buy local, but the exposure to new, exciting foods is unparalleled! If you don’t know how to find the CSA in your area, check out Local Harvest, which enables you to search by town or zipcode.
It’s true that buying local produce will run you a little more than buying in the big-box market, but the nutritional value of your food will be so much higher…who wouldn’t pay a little extra for that kind of a perk? Even buying organic produce at the market can be deceptive; often organic produce is robbed of many of it’s benefits by being picked too early and being forced to travel hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles to reach your plate. What’s the good of eating organic when the nutrients of your fruits have been leached out? By eating local, you are getting the best possible bang for your hard-earned buck, and you are giving back to your local economy in a way that can be easily seen and felt.
Your local farmers will thank you, but your family will too!