The localvore lifestyle is all the rage right now, and for good reasons. There are numerous health and environmental benefits of embracing locally grown and produced food, and the growth in this trend has made this lifestyle choice increasingly accessible. Here are my top five reasons why you should incorporate more local foods into your diet:
- Local food is more nutritious. Studies demonstrate that fresh produce quickly loses its nutrients when transported. This is because during transport, sugars turn into starches, plant cells shrink and produce loses its vitality. When purchasing locally grown food, it has most likely been picked within the past day or two and as a result, is fresher and more nutritious. This emphasis on freshness also means that your food will taste better. What’s not to like about food with more nutrition and taste?
- Buying local conserves energy. On average, our food travels 1,500 miles before it gets to our plate. This journey is mostly facilitated by planes and trucks, which means an increase in our petroleum dependence. When you buy local food, you conserve the energy that would have otherwise been used for transport. Also, local produce purchased at farmer’s markets or from the farms themselves uses little to no packaging which means not only are you not paying the extraneous cost for plastic, but you are also helping to keep items out of the landfill!
- Local eating promotes genetic diversity. Large commercial farms plant a relatively limited number of hybrid fruits and vegetables because the crops they plant can tolerate the harshness of harvesting, packaging, shipping and storage. As a result, our food’s genetic diversity is dwindling. On the other hand, family farms grow a large number of varieties in order to extend their growing season and create flavorful products. Many family farm varieties are “heirlooms” which have been passed through the generations due to their great flavor. These older varieties maintain the genetic structure from hundreds or thousands of years of human selection, and may provide the diversity needed to flourish in climate change.
- Local food builds community and preserves open space. When you go to a farmer’s market and get to know the farmers who grow your food, you create an understanding, trust and connection to your farmers, neighbors and the environment. This practice also helps to preserve open space- as agricultural landscape persists only when farming is financially feasible. When purchasing local food, not only are you helping to create relationships, but your dollars are increasing the farmer’s land value and thus, make development less probable.
- Being a localvore supports local farmers. Unfortunately, the number of American family farms is in decline. Less than 1% of Americans report farming to be their primary occupation, and yet, they are responsible with growing the food for the other 99%. This is due to the fact that farmers generally receive less than 10 cents of every retail food dollar, and thus, may not make enough to simply feed their own families. Therefore, it is imperative to support local farmers by purchasing from trusted brands like Organic Valley, which supports family farms and pays high premiums for their organic farmers’ nutritious and tasty products, as well as to buy locally in order to take the middleman out of the equation so farmers receive the full retail price.
Supporting local agriculture means better tasting and more nutritious food as well as food with a lower carbon footprint that promotes community building and supports the American family farm. By supporting your local farmers today, you can help to ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow so that future generations will have equal, or even better, access to locally grown food and open space.