What is local food?
Local means something different to everyone. It all depends on where you live, how long your growing season is, and what products you are looking for. Practically speaking, local food production can be thought of in concentric circles that start with growing food at home. The next ring out might be food grown in our immediate community - then state, region, and country. For some parts of the year or for some products that thrive in your local climate, it may be possible to buy closer to home. At other times, or for less common products, an expanded reach may be required.
If this is overwhelming, start small! Focus on one food item that you want to buy locally, such as vegetables, and build from there!
Why buy local?
The benefits are endless! But here are a few:
- To experience food in season at it's peak taste!
- To cut down on "food miles" (the distance food travels from the farm to your home). On average, the food miles for an item in a grocery store are 27 times higher than goods from local sources.
- To eliminate environmental damage caused by shipping food thousands of miles (local and regional food systems produce 17 times less CO2).
- To experience the health benefits of fresh, unprocessed foods
- To experiment with delicious seasonal recipes
- To connect to your food and farmers: now you know where it all comes from and sometimes even get to meet the person who grew it!
- To know where it is coming from! Hello peace of mind!
- To put your money in the hand of the farmer instead of in the pockets of processors, packagers, distributors, wholesalers, truckers and the rest of the infrastructure that a global food system demands.
- To build your community and meet your neighbors at our local market!
If you can't buy local...
While some enjoy the challenge of an all-local diet, it doesn't work for everyone. If products are not available locally or regionally, look for items produced in the United States. Remember—local means as close to home as possible, in some cases that may mean oranges from California or Florida, rather than Chile or Israel.
When shopping for more exotic ingredients like chocolate, coffee or bananas, look for products labeled "Fair Trade" or "Rainforest Alliance Certified." The fair trade label means that farmers and farm workers in developing nations receive a fair price for their product, work directly with buyers, and prioritize sustainable farming methods without forced child labor and the use of a dozen of the most harmful pesticides. To be fair trade certified, products must be grown by small-scale producers who are able organize themselves in either cooperatives or unions.