Eating locally sourced food has become a popular trend recently, more people are attending farmers markets, co-ops and health food stores than ever before. While many people are aware that eating locally sourced foods most likely is better for your health, what they may not know is that there are many other benefits to eating what’s grown or raised in your backyard.
Let’s start by exploring the main reason that customers have decided to make the switch to locally sourced food: the health benefits. Fruits and vegetables increasingly lose their nutritional value as soon as they are picked, in order to ensure that students are able to meet their nutritional needs it is important that these foods come from a local source. Through seeking out locally sourced foods one can ensure themselves a more nutritious eating experience. Similarly, locally sourced foods are picked when they are ripe, meaning that foods taken from further away will lose their ripeness before they hit the store while locally sourced produce can appear on your plate the same day it is picked (1). When speaking with Trent Emery of Emery Farms in Wayne, Maine, he explained that food on his farm is more often than not delivered to our dining halls here at Colby on the same day. Based on the importance of eating produce as quickly as possible after they picked, this is great news for all Colby hall attendees. Eating locally raised meat may be of even greater importance than locally sourced produce. Due to smaller ranches using smaller scale production facilities, there is a much greater chance that your meat will leave the facility uncontaminated. Many of the larger meat processing facility, such as the ones that we viewed in class in the Food Inc documentary, are fairly prone to producing hazardous meats due to the fact that they are so large and therefore tough to ensure that their process is completely safe from contamination. There have been many recent outbreaks of tainted meats, as recently as this September when a ground beef facility in Colorado had to recall their products due to an E.coli outbreak. Buying meats from smaller, local ranches gives one much better odd of having safe, uncontaminated products.
A second reason why eating locally sourced products is so important is that it is good for the environment. Buying locally saves environmental costs such as transportation and refrigeration which both take a great toll on the environment. One example of this is in the transportation of produce that had been imported into the United Kingdom versus produce that was source within the United Kingdom found that produce from outside of the UK uses over 20x more CO2 to reach stores compared to produce that is distributed locally within the UK (2). This is a staggering difference in environmental impact that must be accounted for. Eating locally ensures that your food has not traveled thousands of miles using fossil fuels that produce large amounts of greenhouse gasses. It also ensures that your food hasn’t been refrigerated for hours or even days, which also produces mass amounts of greenhouse gasses. Aside from the transportation issues with buying non-local products, is that it helps to protect local farm lands. If we were to only buy food from mass retailers with giant factory farms it would cause local farmers to go out of business and that protected agricultural land to become residential or commercial property. This protects the environment through not allowing the biodiversity of the land to become compromised (3).
A final reason as to why it is so important to support local farmers and buy local produce is that it helps the local economy. Buying locally pumps money into local economy rather than large retailers who care more about bottom lines than their employees. It would be more beneficial to everyone’s local community if they were to spend their money at a local farmers market and help out their neighbor rather than going to Walmart and helping a multi-billion dollar company’s profit margin. Doing this also helps the local economy through creating and maintaining farming jobs. The money that you give the farmers will eventually end up in the hands of other local businesses, creating a positive spending loop within the community, allowing its economy to thrive. An example of this is that if people in and around the Seattle area bought 20 percent of their food from local providers, would generate an extra billion dollars each year that would go into into their local economy (4).
Next time you consider buying that bunch of bananas or prepackaged box of deli meat from Walmart, think again. Purchasing these foods from a local vendor will provide you with immense benefits. You are not risking your health and safety by purchasing foods that have been produced thousands of miles away in giant factory farms. Secondly you will be lessening your carbon footprint through eliminating unnecessary travel and refrigeration that produces many tons of greenhouse gasses. Finally, you’re helping your neighbor keep their employment maybe even grow their business, which in turn strengthens your local economy. So next time you’re going to purchase food, consider a farm stand rather than a superstore.