In the beginning of May, I wrote a guest post for Teri about eating local. Now that it’s summer and farmers’ market season is at its prime, I thought I’d post my article once more for those who may have missed it the first time.
* * *
I am sure you are all familiar with the terms carnivore, herbivore, and even omnivore. I assume most consider themselves the latter – eating both plants and animals – while those who eat a vegan diet (and perhaps even vegetarians too) title themselves as herbivores. What and who are locavores, you may ask? Locavores, as the name indicates, are those that focus on eating locally-grown and produced foods. With our country’s current effort on “going green,” local food is a hot topic; I wanted to share a few facts and my two cents on the importance of a locavore lifestyle.
Growing up in a rural town on California’s north coast, fresh, local food was in abundance. I have fond memories of strolling the farmer’s market centered on our town’s square with my mom almost every Saturday morning between the months of April and November. The plaza would come alive between the hours of 9am and 2pm with live music, happy vendors, and friendly shoppers with baskets bulging with farm-fresh produce. Little did I know, this weekend family ritual has had a significant impact on my life today.
Although I do not currently reside in the agriculture haven of Humboldt County, making smart choices about what type of foods I chose to support, and where I buy my groceries hasn’t slipped my mind while away at school. As a college student on a rigid budget, I cannot say that my kitchen is stocked only with organic, locally-grown food as would be my preference; however, the more and more I learn about the devastating effects industrial agricultural has on our environment, the more I am willing to shell out a few extra bucks to support a movement I believe will help our planet spin longer and healthier.
The importance of eating locally can be rather complex, but perhaps a few statistics will inspire you to think about the route your food travels from farm to table:
- Industrial food travels an average of 1,500 miles from farm to fork.
- Locally-produced food requires 17x less petroleum than does a diet based on food shipped across the country.
- Industrial agriculture has reduced the varieties of fruits and vegetables available by 75% since the beginning of the 20th century.
- Today, 75% of the world’s food is generated from just 12 varieties of plants and 5 animal species. Iceberg lettuce, frozen and fried potatoes, potato chips and canned tomatoes make up almost half of U.S. vegetable consumption.
Here are a few of the many benefits of eating local:
Locally gown food tastes better.
As kids, my brother and I loved when my mom would buy a big bag of raw, organic green beans for us to crunch on as we sauntered around the Saturday market. The flavors and aromas of foods that have been plucked out of the earth just hours before consuming do not even compare to the plastic-wrapped bags of starched lettuces that survive on supermarket shelves for unnatural amounts of time.
Local organically-grown food is healthier for you.
“Local organically-grown food that is eaten soon after being harvested is higher in nutrients and does not contain pesticides and added hormones found in industrially-produced food” (pg. 10). More often than not, local famers use organic farming methods which build soil and soil fertility. Soils rich in organic matter have a greater capacity for additional nutrients that they can convey to the plants.
Buying local helps build our economy & community.
Growing up in a small town with little to no corporations (and the fact that my family has been running our family-owned and operated business for 35+ years), supporting others trying to make their way in this world the same way is a no-brainer. “Several studies have shown that every dollar spent in a locally-owned store has three times the effect of a dollar spent at a store owned by a distant corporation” (pg. 10).
I hope these few words have inspired you to learn more about becoming a locavore, whether you chose to continue eating a carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore diet. Our agricultural standards and food industry in general has frankly gotten out of hand. I hope you will take part in putting the dirt back into your own hands. Start by researching farmer’s markets in your area, look into receiving weekly boxes of produce from your neighborhood famers, or better yet… turn over the soil in your own backyard and plant some seeds of your own. ‘Tis (always) the season to eat sustainability, organically, and locally.
Here’s to a healthy planet and a healthy YOU!
Your farmers’ market fan,
Source: Locally Delicious: Recipes and Resources for Eating on the North Coast. Copyright 2009. Anne Anderson, Martha Haynes, Ann King, Carol Moné, Lauren Cohn-Sarabia and Suzanne Simpson.