It has been a difficult 18 months to make food choices that are the best for both body and planet. Consuming more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods has always been the goal, but the types of produce we choose can be impactful not just for our bodies, but for our communities, as well. Going local and going fresh with seasonal produce can benefit your life in multiple ways, in addition to supporting and empowering the community around you.
There are numerous great reasons to buy local seasonal produce. Here are just a few:
1. Buying local is an investment in the planet
Local produce creates a fraction of the carbon footprint generated by produce that travels around the globe. When you opt to buy local, you’re investing in our planet. Small decisions equal big solutions. A percentage of the carbon emissions relating to crops and produce comes from transporting it rather than growing it, which you can eliminate by buying local goods. The largest percentage of food-related emissions comes from production methods, which tend to come from large-scale agricultural production, according to research by the University of Michigan.
Smaller, locally sourced production, in contrast, can have a major, positive impact on our air quality, soil health and fighting global warming. Homesteading, for example – a practice of gardening, composting, and being less dependent on external food sources – shows that a little work in your own backyard can turn into a steady supply of your own healthy, fresh food too.
2. Supporting the local economy
A CSA (or Community Supported Agriculture) is another fantastic, community-friendly way to source your produce. Look into becoming a member of nearby farms to receive a regular delivery of fresh produce; most deliver bi-weekly or monthly depending on your needs. In addition to access to the freshest possible foods, season by season, you will be supporting local farmers at the same time. When you make the choice to buy local, your money tends to stay and circulate in the community longer (i.e. dollars paid by a local business to a local employee may then go on to be spent at another business in the community), thus upping the “local premium,” which “represents the quantifiable advantage to the city provided by locally owned businesses relative to chain businesses,” according to an assessment by Michigan State University.
Finally, a fun perk of being a member of a CSA is that you’ll often have the opportunity to connect with local growers and their farms. Some farms invite CSA members to fun and informative community events on their properties.
3. The flavor value of seasonal produce
Selecting local produce is one of the easiest ways to add flavor and nutritional value to your favorite dishes. Fresh, in-season products usually pack a bigger flavor punch than produce that has been shipped from distant locations, according to an article published by the Michigan State University Extension. Local produce owes its flavor to the fact that it can be harvested when ripe and sold more quickly, as opposed to foods that have been shipped from outside the region. This produce is often picked before it is ripe, to try and ensure freshness by the time it’s completed the long journey to market. This timing is difficult to achieve; most of us have experienced this in our local supermarkets.
Another factor to consider is the nutritional quality of the produce we purchase. Vitamins and minerals begin to degrade immediately upon harvesting, so produce that has been shipped from far away often has fewer nutrients than its locally grown counterparts. The formula is pretty simple: the less time food spends in transit, the more flavor, vitamins and nutrients those foods have. In his 2016 TED Talk, Austrian farmer and agricultural activist Max Borchardt explains some of the benefits of buying local:
4. Farming practices for our worldwide future
A 2013 report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development stated that the best path to providing food for the whole world, in a way that will provide reliable access to food equitably without harming the planet, is through organic, local farming in every region that supports these practices. This practice includes urban farming, another community and eco-friendly trend, which is growing in cities throughout the world. When you choose to spend your food dollars locally, you’re investing in this critically important vision of our agricultural future. Nourish your curiosity and find out where to buy local in your area.
5. Finding a farmers market near you
Use USDA.gov’s directory listing service to find a farmers market near you. If you live in the US, SeasonalFoodGuide.org helps you to find seasonal food in your region. (Theres an app, too.)
- What’s the biggest obstacle to local produce in your area?
- Have you toured a local farm near you to see where your food comes from?
- What’s in a label? Do you check the sources of your food? If so, what are you specifically looking for?
Poll Questions Web or Social:
- Are you more likely to eat local ingredients when cooking at home and/or when ordering from a restaurant?
- Quiz: Do you know where your local farmer’s market is?
When you choose to buy local, you’re spending your money on the people in your community. According to an assessment by Michigan State University, dollars spent with local businesses tend to stay in the community longer.
Local seasonal produce is often more flavorful because it can be picked exactly when it’s ripe and sold as soon as 24 hours later. That’s in contrast to food shipped from far away, which is often picked before it ripen in order to ensure it’s fresh by the time it’s arrived at the supermarket.