An important part of buying local is making an effort to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season in your area. Although today's global marketplace allows us to buy foods grown virtually anywhere in the world all year round, these options are not the most sustainable.
By purchasing local foods in-season, you eliminate the environmental damage caused by shipping foods thousands of miles, your food dollar goes directly to the farmer, and your family will be able to enjoy the health benefits of eating fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables. Buying seasonal produce also provides an exciting opportunity to try new foods and to experiment with seasonal recipes. And it simply tastes better!
Even if you don't want to change any of your eating habits, you can at least make sure to buy local produce when it's available, rather than purchase the same type of food from 3000 miles away!
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Why Eat Local?
1. Taste the difference.
At a farmers’ market, most local produce has been picked inside of 24 hours. It comes to you ripe, fresh, and with its full flavor, unlike supermarket food that may have been picked weeks or months before. Close-to-home foods can also be bred for taste, rather than withstanding the abuse of shipping or industrial harvesting.
2. Know what you’re eating.
Buying food today is complicated. What pesticides were used? Is that corn genetically modified? Was that chicken free range or did it grow up in a box? People who eat locally find it easier to get answers. Many build relationships with farmers whom they trust. And when in doubt, they can drive out to the farms and see for themselves.
3. Meet your neighbors.
Local eating is social. Studies show that people shopping at farmers’ markets have 10 times more conversations than their counterparts at the supermarket. Join a community garden and you’ll actually meet the people you pass on the street.
4. Get in touch with the seasons.
When you eat locally, you eat what’s in season. You’ll remember that cherries are the taste of summer. Even in winter, comfort foods like squash soup and pancakes just make sense–a lot more sense than flavorless cherries from the other side of the world.
5. Discover new flavors.
Ever tried sunchokes? How about purslane, quail eggs, heirloom carrots, or pineapple guava? These are just a few of the different foods you can sample from local eating. Our local spot prawns are tastier than popular tiger prawns. Even familiar foods are more interesting. Count the types of pear on offer at your supermarket. Maybe three? Small farms are keeping alive nearly 300 other varieties–while more than 2,000 more have been lost in our rush to sameness.
6. Explore your home.
Visiting local farms is a way to be a tourist on your own home turf, with plenty of stops for snacks.
7. Save the world.
Most produce grown in the United States travels an average of 1,500 miles before it gets sold. Trucking, shipping and flying in food from around the country and the globe takes a toll on the environment and on public health. Take grapes, for example. Every year, nearly 270 million pounds of grapes arrive in California, most of them shipped from Chile to the Port of Los Angeles. Their 5,900 mile journey in cargo ships and trucks releases 7,000 tons of global warming pollution each year, and enough air pollution to cause dozens of asthma attacks and hundreds of missed school days in California.
The way we eat has an enormous impact on the health of the planet. By choosing to eat lower on the food chain, and focusing on local and organic produce, we can curb global warming and air pollution, avoid toxic pesticides, support local farmers and enjoy fresh, tasty food!
8. Support small farms.
Many people from all walks of life dream of working the land–maybe you do too. In areas with strong local markets, the family farm is reviving. That’s a whole lot better than the jobs at Wal-Mart and fast-food outlets that the globalized economy offers in North American towns.