Saturday, May 21, 2011

Eating and buying locally

Everyone is talking about it but how much are we actually doing it? If you are given the choice between a local product or a similar product that costs a little bit less, which do you choose?

And since I'm asking these questions, what is it that we need to convince us to choose the local product that might cost a little bit more money?

Back in 2005 when local buying became a movement, people who shopped locally where given the title "locavore". According to this article, the locavore phenomenon brings up several important concerns including: food miles, chemically grown food, greenhouse gas emissions, factory farming, genetically engineered animal feed, and the value of organic labeling. I'm not going to go too much into some of this, but I encourage you to follow up if you can. It is all important stuff to consider when you use your dollar to vote.

In terms of buying local products, I know that for me, knowing the people who grow the food is a huge help. I am much more likely to want to give my hard earned money directly (or indirectly if their product is in a store) to someone that I have met instead of giving it to someone that I haven't.
For example, today I went to the farmer's market (yes, it's already open, check it out!) and bought more of the delicious sheep cheese that we got last week. The guy was really great and remembered me because I wanted my cheese in a jar and didn't want to waste any wrapping. His farm is called 3 Corner Field Farm. Here he is happy to accommodate me:
I'm sorry that I don't remember his name, I hope he understands.

One thing to note about taking your own packaging when shopping is that there is sometimes a concern about whether or not the business or seller is allowed to put something directly in your jar (or whatever you use), it is an issue of sanitation. I am very aware of this because I happened to be ServSafe certified, so I make it clear that they can just hand the product to me and I'm happy to put it in my jar myself.

Here is an interesting bit of random info for you (according to local harvest) - only 18 cents of every dollar, when buying at a large supermarket, go to the grower... and 82 cents go to various unnecessary middlemen.

And if you are looking for more, here are 10 great reasons to eat locally, taken from the Berkshire Grown website:

Locally grown food tastes and looks better.

Crops marketed close to home are picked at their peak and usually sold within 24 hours of harvesting. Food imported from far away must travel on trucks or planes and then it is stored in warehouses.

Local food is better for you.

The shorter the time between the farm and your table, the less likely it is that nutrients will be lost from fresh food. Most fresh produce loses much of its nutritional value within 48 hours of harvesting.

Local food is safer.

With all the issues related to food safety and homeland security, there’s an assurance that comes from looking a farmer in the eye at the farmers’ market, or driving by the fields where our food comes from.

Local food supports local families.

Local farmers who sell directly to consumers cut out the middleman and can get full retail price for their food – which helps farm families to be able to afford to continue farming their land.

Local Food builds community.

When you buy direct from a farmer, you’re engaging in a time-honored connection between eater and grower and you’re supporting a local business. Getting to know folks who grow your food helps you know more about the place you live.

Local food preserves open space.

When farmers get paid more for their products by nearby shoppers, they’re less likely to sell farmland for development.

Local food keeps taxes down.

According to several studies, farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas most residential development contributes less in taxes than the cost of required services.

Local food benefits the environment and wildlife.

Farmers are leaders in the use of environmentally sound growing practices. Our farms encompass a patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, streams, and ponds that provide essential habitat for wildlife.

Local food is an investment in our future.

When you buy locally grown food, you’re helping to preserve the strength and character of our community for our children and grandchildren.

Local food preserves genetic diversity.

In industrial agriculture, plants are bred for their ability to ripen uniformly, withstand harvesting, survive packing and last a long time on the shelf, so there are only a few varieties in large-scale production. This leaves our food supply vulnerable to disease or disaster. Smaller local farms, in contrast, often grow many different varieties to provide a longer season, an array of colors, and the best flavors.

Looking for more ways to buy local? Check out this site for more ideas.

Lastly, here is another great thing that is happening in my community at some local restaurants: it's a weekend of farmed and foraged foods! If you have the time and money, consider checking it out at your favorite participating restaurant. Personally, if I had a few extra dollars and I wasn't busy working at one of the participating locations, I would totally go to Route 7 Grill to partake.
Oh well, maybe next time.

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