This list is adapted slightly from one that appeared in a publication of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (www.caff.org). I thought it was a nice summary of all the benefits received by our health, our environment, and our planet when we buy and eat locally grown food.
1. Better for you. When fresh fruits and vegetables are locally grown, picked, and processed, the vitamins and minerals they contain are at their peak. Fresh produce loses nutrients quickly, and often spends 7 – 14 days in transit. In that delay before it reaches your table, sugars turn to starches, and plant cells shrink and lose vitality. Fresh local produce is more nutritious.
2. Taste and appearance. Local farmers can grow tastier varieties if they know they’ll be eaten locally and not trucked across the country. Local produce is more delicious because it can be picked at peak ripeness.
3. Supports farm families. When you buy directly from family farmers at farmers markets, your money goes directly to help them continue farming and growing good food. Since 1935, the US has lost 4.7 million farms, and farmers today receive less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar.
4. Preserves genetic diversity. In industrial agriculture, plants are bred for their ability to ripen uniformly, survive packing, and last a long time on the shelf. Small local farms are instead able to grow many different varieties to provide a longer season and the best flavors.
5. Lighter carbon footprint. On average, food travels 1500 – 2500 miles from the farm to plate. In that process, each calorie of food produced requires an average of 10 calories of fossil fuel inputs from travel, refrigeration, and processing. Purchasing locally grown food saves the fuel needed to transport food, reduces air pollution, and combats carbon emissions.
6. Preserves open space. Family farms are well-managed places where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued. Good stewards of the land grow cover crops that prevent erosion and replace nutrients. Farms also are the perfect environment for many species of wildlife. Buying locally grown food helps ensure the survival of these spaces and preserves the agricultural landscape.
7. Builds trust. Many issues and concerns of food safety can be allayed from the assurance that comes from directly speaking with growers at a farmers market.
8. Local economic strength. Buying local food keeps your dollars in the local economy, providing jobs and creating a more vibrant community.
9. Builds community. When you buy directly from a local farmer, you’re keeping the connection between grower and consumer alive, and supporting a local business. Learning who grows your food teaches you about where you live.
10. Investment in our future. By supporting local growers today, we ensure there will be farms in our community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing and abundant food.