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Think Globally, Buy Locally
Often doing the right thing is hard. But sometimes, it can be very easy – like going to the local farmer’s market. There are a host of reasons, from the economic to the political, that make it a good idea to buy as much food as possible as locally as possible.
First, you are likely to get better food for your buck. There is a huge difference in taste, nutrition, freshness and plate appeal between fresh red tomatoes right off the vine and hothouse tomatoes. Local produce is picked when it is ripe, rather than being picked before its peak so it can be shipped far away. As a result, it usually has higher nutritional value. It is often healthier, because it is less likely to have been grown using pesticides or to have been treated artificially to keep it fresh for shipping. And it almost always just plain tastes better. Which means you are likely to eat it all, instead of taking a bite and throwing out the rest.
Shopping locally also is good for the environment. According to sustainabletable.org, the average meal you eat travels 1,500 miles before it gets to your table. And of course, you end up paying for the cost of that travel, and for all the middlemen involved in getting food from a far-away farm to your local supermarket. But the environment pays a heavy price, too: fuel used by planes, trains and trucks to transport the food, and literally tons of packaging used to protect it and present it for sale. In fact, buying food locally is one of the most important things an individual can do to help protect the environment.
Buying locally also helps support local farmers and continue the American tradition of family farms. Plus, it’s just fun to wander through the stalls or tables of colorful fruits and vegetables, taste the local cheeses and breads, talk to the vendors. You may be inspired to try new recipes, and you almost certainly will be motivated to eat more fruits and vegetables, which is good for a host of reasons.
The chances are excellent that there is a farmer’s market near you. If you don’t know of one already, you can check with the USDA for a list.
Of course, most farmer’s markets are open only during the growing season. So what can you do during the winter? One possibility is to join a food co-op. Most food co-ops work hard to ensure that the food they offer is as fresh as possible and has the least impact on the environment. There are also organizations called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) that function much like co-ops to promote and support local farmers.
Most likely, even if you are very dedicated to buying locally produced food, you will end up at the supermarket from time to time. While you’re there, ask the manager if they stock local food. If not, suggest that they look into it.
Buying as much of your food as possible from local sources may seem like a small thing. But it can have a big impact on your wallet, your stomach, your health and your world.