The local food movement has become more and more prevalent in recent years, with many restaurants and grocery stores emphasizing seasonal, local food. But why should we care where our food comes from? As it turns out, there are a lot of benefits to eating food that was grown close to home! Here are a few:
- It tastes better. You’ve likely experienced this yourself: A tomato grown in your backyard tastes completely different from one bought in the produce aisle. Conventional food (i.e. food from an industrial farm, like you’d get from the grocery store) is estimated to travel between 1,500 and 3,000 miles to reach the consumer. That means that the produce has to be harvested early to allow for packaging and shipping. Locally grown food, on the other hand, is often picked within 24 hours of being purchased. That makes it much more flavorful!
- It’s healthier for you. Remember how far conventional food has to travel to get to your table? During that time, the nutrients in the produce are degraded as the items are shipped and processed. Because local food has a shorter time between harvest and your table, it is less likely that the nutrient value has decreased. Additionally, being harvested during peak ripeness means the produce had more nutrients to begin with!
- It supports the local economy. The money that is spent with local farmers and growers all stays close to home and is reinvested with businesses and services in your community. So your money goes to someone whose children might go to school with yours, rather than a CEO from who knows where! Doesn’t that sound better?
- It’s better for the environment. Purchasing locally grown foods helps maintain farmland and green and/or open space in your community. Additionally, many local farms use less pesticides and work to preserve the integrity of the land around them. Industrial farms are infamous for stripping the land and allowing erosion, which damages local water as well as local flora.
- It’s safer. Local foods promote a safer food supply because there are less chances for the food to become contaminated. Food from distant locations has the potential for food safety issues at harvesting, washing, shipping and distribution. For meat, processing plants take in animals from many different sources, and industrial standards are not particularly stringent.
- It connects you to your food. One of the benefits of buying food from people in your community is you can ask how the food was grown, what practices they use to raise and harvest the crops. When you know where your food comes from and who grew it, you know a lot more about that food. The more engaged you are with your food, the more likely you are to eat right!
How can I eat locally?
We’ve established that local food is better, but how the heck do you get it? Sadly, because of the increasing popularity of locally grown food, larger corporations have begun using labels that suggest sustainable or local practices when in truth, the food comes from a factory farm. Here are some sure fire ways to get local foods without worrying that you’re being had.
CSA: CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, which is a direct-to-consumer program where consumers buy a “share” of a local farm’s projected harvest. Often, you pay for your share of the harvest up front, then pick up the fruits and vegetables harvested weekly from a pre-arranged location. These programs usually run through the summer months, and you receive an assortment of produce that varies every week. This can be a fun option for people wanting to try new things while supporting a local farm.
Farmers’ Markets: Farmers’ markets are a well recognized and popular way to purchase local produce, among other things. Vendors are local farmers and artisans that rent a vendors space from the municipality. Farmers’ markets allow the consumer to purchase locally without the commitment and investment needed for a CSA. Additionally, exploring the market gives you a chance to become more familiar with your community!
Grow your own: Although gardening can be time consuming and difficult, it’s also extremely rewarding to grow your own produce. Additionally, it’s difficult to get more local than your own backyard! If you’re looking for a hobby, try putting a small plot or container garden in this year! If nothing else, you will be quickly educated on how much effort goes into growing food!
Still have questions? We’ve put some links below to help you better understand what is meant by local food, and how to get it in Southeastern Wisconsin:
A list of local CSAs:
An article on local food:
Websites for local farmers’ markets: