My recent Care2.com posts on the creation of the USDA’s People's Garden and How to Get the Most Out of Your Local Farmer's Market that are meant to encourage people to eat locally got me to thinking. Do people really know why it might be better to eat locally?
There are many benefits to eating locally. To me, the biggest benefit is that it just tastes better. Instead of being picked before it's ripe, locally grown produce has been freshly picked, meaning it's sweeter, crunchier, juicier, and all-around more flavorful than produce that's traveled thousands of miles to get to you.
It's also better for the environment because it reduces the need for transportation, meaning it reduces carbon dioxide emissions and reduces the amount of packaging necessary to transport the food.
Local eating also helps preserve, support, and protect local farmland and farmers, and it provides a boost to your local economy by keeping dollars right in your own community.
Another great thing about buying locally is that it often turns out to be healthier for you. Because you know where your food comes from, who grew it and how it was grown, you are more in control of what you eat and what goes into your body.
You have a unique opportunity to develop a relationship with the people who grow your food. This means you are able to choose foods from growers who minimize or eliminate the use of pesticide, hormones, and other unwanted chemicals, and you can ask them about how their food is grown and why.
Where to find local food? As I wrote in my posting about farmers' markets, your local farmer's market is one of the best places to find the largest selection of locally grown fruits and vegetables. To find one near you, check out the USDA’s farmer's market site.
Another great option is to join a CSA or community supported agriculture farm. This is basically a kind of "subscription" farm, where you buy shares in a farm in exchange for a share of the harvest. Most CSA's require annual or quarterly subscriptions and offer a weekly or bi-weekly box of fresh produce that's either delivered to your front door, or that you can pick up at the farm or some other convenient drop-off location.
For more great ideas and encouragement, go to http://www.eatlocalchallenge.com/. To find local farms, farm stands, farmers' markets, and CSA's in your area, go to Local Harvest, Food Routes, or the Eat Well Guide.
Since I am a Californian (I am LA Farm Girl after all), there’s a great resource for buying local, California grown food, it’s the Buy Fresh Buy Local Guide which now includes portions of southern California.
(Originally published on Care2.com http://www.care2.com/causes/environment/blog/why-eat-locally/)