Eight Reasons to Eat Local Foods
By Molly Watson, journalist
1. Local Foods Are Fresher (and Taste Better)
Local food is fresher and tastes better than food that been trucked or flown in from thousands of miles away. Think you can’t taste the difference between lettuce picked yesterday and lettuce picked last week, factory-washed, and sealed in plastic? You can. And fresh food? It lasts longer too.
2. Local Foods Are Seasonal (and Taste Better)
It must be said: Deprivation leads to greater appreciation. When does a cozy room feel best? When you’ve come in from out of the freezing cold. Fresh corn in season tastes best when you haven’t eaten any in 9 or 10 months–long enough for its taste to be a slightly blurred memory that is suddenly awakened with that first bite of the season. Eating locally means eating seasonally, with all the deprivation and resulting pleasure that accompanies it.
3. Local Foods Usually Have Less Environmental Impact
Those thousands of miles some food is shipped? That leads to a big carbon footprint for a little bunch of herbs. Look for farmers who follow organic and sustainable growing practices and energy use to minimize your food’s environmental impact.
4. Local Foods Preserve Green Space & Farmland
The environmental question of where you food comes from is bigger than its “carbon footprint.” By buying foods grown and raised closer to where you live, you help maintain farmland and green space in your area.
5. Local Foods Promote Food Safety
The fewer steps there are between your food’s source and your table the less chance there is of contamination. Also, when you know where your food comes from and who grows it, you know a lot more about that food. During the e. coli outbreak in spinach in 2006 I knew the spinach in my refrigerator was safe because I knew it was grown in Yolo County by a farmer I knew, and, as importantly, that it didn’t come from Salinas County where the outbreak was. (The knowledge would have worked in reverse too: if the outbreak had been in Yolo County instead, I would have known to throw that bunch of greens and scrub down the fridge!)
6. Local Foods Support Your Local Economy
Money spent with local farmers, growers, and artisans and locally-owned purveyors and restaurants all stays close to home, working to build your local economy instead of being handed over to a corporation in another city, state, or country. Since the food moves through fewer hands, more of the money you spend tends to get to the people growing it.
To make the biggest local economic impact with your food budget, seek out producers who pay their workers a fair wage and practice social justice in their business.
7. Local Foods Promote Variety
Local foods create greater variety of foods available. Farmers who run CSAs, sell at farmers’ markets, and provide local restaurants have the demand and the support for raising more types of produce and livestock. Think Brandywines, Early Girls, and Lemon Boys instead of “tomatoes.”
8. Local Foods Create Community
Knowing where your food is from connects you to the people who raise and grow it. Instead of having a single relationship–to a big supermarket–you develop smaller connections to more food sources: vendors at the farmers’ market, the local cheese shop, your favorite butcher, the co-op that sells local eggs, a local café that roasts coffee.
Take home message: Eating locally connects you to the larger world.