Choosing local food, shopping at a farmers market and selecting organic local produce may be a wise long-term decision for your health and the health of the planet. But some consumers hesitate to make the switch, especially during challenging economic times. This may be due to a stubborn perception that local foods are more expensive. Sometimes they are. Often they’re not.
The cost of local food and organic local produce will vary widely depending on the geographic area and the comparative cost of industrially produced food. Be sure you investigate the real cost difference between mass-produced food and farmers market offerings before you dismiss the idea of local food for financial reasons.
If your area has a standard-to-long growing season and an abundance of independent farms, there should be very little difference between the cost of industrial food and the cost of seasonal organic local produce found at a farmers market. In fact, the high cost of fuel used to transport out-of-season food over thousands of miles may add expense to non-local food, in addition to reducing its quality. Check before you buy.
Even if you find that the locally grown food options are slightly more expensive than what you buy in the supermarket, local food may still be a better choice. Though you may pay a bit more for locally-grown food, food grown close to home is better for the environment, your health and the health of your family.
Still not convinced? Here are five great reasons to spend just a little more on locally grown produce, vegetables and meats:
1. Buying local food keeps money circulating within your local economy.
You, your family and your neighbors reap long-term benefits when money stays at home. Supporting local farmers fosters a sense of pride and community, and it keeps jobs in your local community.
2. Local food tastes better.
Traditional growers ship produce and meats all over the word, so to be successful, they must grow food in massive quantities to have a long shelf life and be highly durable. This means many farmers have to sacrifice quality and taste for a product that can endure a long plane ride and still look ripe when it hits supermarket shelves in your neighborhood. Local farmers don’t need to worry so much about scale and transportability, so they can grow their food to be the tastiest and freshest option possible when it arrives on your plate.
3. Eating local food lowers your carbon footprint.
Non-local options are often shipped via plane, train and truck to your local supermarket, where you drive to pick them up and then drive them home. Shipping food around the world takes a tremendous amount of energy and resources. Buying local can help you reduce your individual impact on the environment.
4. Locally grown food–whether it’s organic or not–is probably better for your health.
Food grown traditionally is often full of preservatives, hormones and chemicals. While there is still some debate as to whether organic food has tangible, long-term health benefits, it’s wise to understand the additives in your food and want to avoid them.
Both organic and non-organic local food are less likely to need to be chemically ripened, sprayed with preservatives or pumped with hormones, since they don’t need to travel far and consumers of local food often value quality over consistency. Remember that most of the chemicals applied to food on large farming operations are designed to benefit producers, not you.