Many of us have easy access to a wide array of fruits and vegetables, even if these plants don’t grow in our areas. We might pick up an orange at the corner store, for example. This is so normal and easy for us that we probably eat the orange without thinking about the fact that we’re hundreds of miles away from the nearest orange grove. But the reality is that our orange’s journey took enormous efforts of labor and shipping, with corresponding effects to the environment. And as you already know if you’ve ever tasted an orange straight from the grove, your industrially grown and shipped fruit loses quite a bit in quality.
The alternative is to buy local. Buying local produce lowers your carbon footprint by decreasing the amount of fossil fuels used to ship your food. Many local farms also avoid single-use plastics, making your shopping experience more eco-friendly. Local shopping also means supporting local farms, which help to bolster the ecology and wildlife of your area, as well as your neighbors’ small businesses. This means you are fostering a sense of community in your neighborhood.
The availability of so many fruits and vegetables year-round not only necessitates feats of shipping, but also means growing crops out of season. These unnatural techniques to grow and ship produce mean that the flavor is less rich. Unlike large industrial farms, every sale for local farmers is vitally important. This results in the sort of high quality control at small, family farms that you do not get from industrial farms. Buying local also means that less time passes between when the food is harvested and when you eat it. This gives the fruit or vegetable more time to ripen naturally and increase in flavor. It also means that you get the most amount of nutrients possible from you food, nutrients that are lost as food sits during shipping and storage.
Twenty years ago, you might have struggled to find local produce. Today it is much easier for two main reasons: 1. Online access to information about local farms and 2. the increased demand and sale of local produce. The first thing you should do to discover options in your area is search online for local farmers’ markets. If your area already has markets, then this is probably the end of your research. If your area doesn’t hold markets, you might need to get in touch with local farmers directly. Many family farms have an online presence, with their own websites or at least listings in online directories such as this directory of small farms in the United States. You should also reach out to your local network to discover local farmers and other food producers. You might discover a neighbor with chickens who sells eggs on the side, for example. Changing your food purchasing habits takes forethought and creativity.
Some of these changes might be inconvenient, but they also create opportunities. Buying local gives you a chance to connect with your neighbors, to try produce fresher than you’ve ever tasted, and to expand and experiment with your recipe repertoire. Buying local produce means eating better, and living healthier.