The local food movement is on the rise in the food industry, but chefs aren’t the only ones able to take advantage of fresh, organic food anymore. These days, farmers’ markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares, and even large grocery store chains are providing the public with the quality ingredients they crave.
The great thing about buying locally-grown products is that it supports both the local economy and the environment as a whole. By buying fresh produce; eggs, cheeses, and even meats from local farmers, you’re often able to cut out the middleman completely. So instead of shopping at a store that orders crates full of produce and has them shipped from California, you’re getting your food from the source itself. Buying directly from farmers cuts down on harmful emissions that would be produced by trucks, boats and planes in order to deliver the ingredients from other parts of the country and the world.
CSA shares are a fantastic way to get in on the local food movement and to really explore the bounty that your area has to offer food-wise. For the last 20 years, CSA shares have helped form relationships between farmers and their neighbors. If you sign up for a share, you’ll pay a set fee in order to receive a weekly box of super fresh produce throughout the farming season. The cost is usually comparable to what you’d spend weekly on produce at a regular store and can often even be cheaper. Typically, the boxes are reused every week, cutting down on waste from conventional shopping bags, as well as reducing emissions that would result from driving to the grocery store on a weekly basis.
Another advantage to buying locally grown products is the organic factor. If you’re able to find a farm around you that grows natural, organic foods free of pesticides and chemicals, you’re essentially helping the environment two-fold. Buying local and organic combines the benefits of reduced emissions with those of chemical-free growing practices. When a farm refrains from using pesticides and chemicals, it helps both you and the environment. Eating organic produce ensures that you are putting only the best things into your body, free of substances for which nature didn’t intend. On a larger scale, it also keeps pesticides and chemicals out of groundwater, which could eventually feed into tributaries, rivers and then oceans. It may seem like a small detail, but the difference between organic and non-organic can make a big difference.
Vibrantly-colored fruits and vegetables have a wide range of vitamins and minerals that are great for our health, and buying locally grown food provides you with the advantage of enjoying colorful ingredients that are often picked that very same day. The less time fruits and vegetables spend on the shelf, the better, because over time, the beneficial vitamins and minerals begin to diminish, making the “healthy foods” you’re eating not as healthy as you may have thought. Buying local equals buying fresh, and nothing tastes better than an ingredient enjoyed immediately after it’s picked or pulled from the earth.
So this Earth Day, do some research on your town’s local food movement. Find out when farmers’ markets open up for the season and look into various options for CSA shares. Start reaping the benefits of your local food scene and help the environment all at the same time. Because one thing’s for sure, eating local will never leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Alex Tillotson can be reached at [email protected]