I am always looking for educational opportunities to share with my children during the day and a trip to the grocery store is a geography lesson all by itself. Apples from New Zealand, oranges from South Africa, and grapes from Chili…the list of countries goes on and on. We hear every day how we live in a ‘global economy’ but what price do we pay for transporting our food halfway across the country before we eat it? There is a wonderful resource that you can read that is published by the National Resource Defense Council that goes into great detail about this topic. I am going to bore you with a couple of statistics to show you why buying local food is important…stick with me for just a minute!
Benefits of Buying Local Food
Why buying local food is important for nutrition:
According to the Center for Health and the Global Environment, food that is allowed to ripen on the vine is more nutritious. Since food that is coming from across the world cannot be allowed to ripen on the vine, it’s nutritional value is lacking compared to locally grown produce. A higher nutrition value is reason enough to answer why buying local food is important but it also impacts the environment.
Why buying local food is important for the environment:
According to the NRDC: “Imports by airplane have a substantial impact on global warming pollution. In 2005, the import of fruits, nuts, and vegetables into California by airplane released more than 70,000 tons of CO2, which is equivalent to more than 12,000 cars on the road.”
Obviously, the increased air pollution caused by food transportation has an impact on the allergy and asthma rates in this country. Just one of many ways that air pollution impacts our health!
Okay, enough statistics! You know those apples, grapes and oranges I mentioned earlier? Those are all items which grow in my region! I live in Central Georgia. North Georgia has apples, Muscadine
grapes grow wild all around my town, and Florida (only a few hours away by truck!)is probably one of the most prolific orange growing regions in the country! So why is my food making a trans continental journey?
Buy Local In Season Food
One big problem is that we Americans are slightly spoiled. (really?) We want asparagus in August and apples in February. If we want zucchini in March we are going to need to import it from somewhere hot since it will not grow in the U.S in March. One important aspect of eating a more locally grown diet is learning to appreciate and enjoy the produce that is in season!
Now you know why buying local food is important but what does this mean for my weekly shopping list? I still have a family to feed, right? What I try and do is buy as close to my home as possible. If it is a choice between North Carolina blueberries or California strawberries, this week…we eat blueberries.
Choose Organic Local Food When Possible
Why eat organic food? There is a great article put out by the Mayo Clinic all about organic food. I won’t go into detail but the effects of pesticides and fertilizers from traditional farming range from the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico to possible increased risks of cancer, neurological issues and possible hormone imbalances. These are all things listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as possible results of pesticide exposure. Since my family is obsessed with bananas and I cannot find bananas growing locally, I choose organic, which I can easily find in my local Publix. It’s not local, but I like to think I have reduced my carbon footprint a little bit by buying organic.
Shop Your Local Farmer’s Market
Shop your local farmer’s markets! Here in Georgia, zucchini grows like a weed in the summer. Farmers are practically GIVING it away! If you would like to find a farmer’s market in your area, check out Local Harvest.org. Learn to preserve your summer bounty either by canning, freezing, pickling, etc. I recently got a book called Put ‘Em Up by Storey Publishing to help me learn to preserve the items I can find in season. I will be reviewing and offering a giveaway of this book in a couple weeks so keep your eye out on my blog if you are interested in reading it! Peppers and onions can be sliced and/or diced and frozen back in convenient quantities for use in winter recipes. Last year, I stocked up on peaches and after removing the skins and slicing (15 minutes TOTAL for 3 pounds!) I froze them and made peach crisp several times over the winter. It does take some planning but it is not difficult to do!
Shop Local Farms
Find a farmer! Use Local Harvest to find meat and poultry farmers, as well as produce. Some farmers require that you buy in bulk but if you can’t afford it or don’t have the room in your freezer, find a friend to buy a share with you! Nothing compares to the taste of grass fed beef!
There are so many more issues surrounding our food production system than I have touched on in this article. The recent egg recalls have brought to light the horrors of factory farmed eggs, however local legislation (at least here in Georgia) makes it impossible for us to take control of our own egg production by raising chickens. In my county, I can’t have even ONE chicken unless I own *3 ACRES* of land. Other issues like the increased resistance of bacteria to antibiotics has been attributed to the massive use of antibiotics in livestock. Food born illnesses are on the rise. Not to mention the humanitarian issues surrounding the raising of factory farmed animals.
Have you ever told your young child “Don’t put that in your mouth, you don’t know where it has been!”? I think more people need to take this same advice when it comes to the food they eat! I hope I have answered your questions about why buying local food is important.
This is a guest post by Diane from Turning The Clock Back. I love her blog and I am sure you will too so go ahead and check it out!