Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Benefits of Eating Locally

At one time or another, you've probably heard someone use the term "locavore." In fact, it was Oxford Dictionary's 2007 Word of the Year. If you haven't, here's the scoop: A locavore is simply someone who eats locally produced foods. Why would anyone want to do that, when the big-box grocery just down the street has a little of anything we've ever desired, available year-round?

The Benefits of Eating Locally

The advantages of eating locally are many. I'll touch on a few here:
  • Food Miles - Did you know that most food travels an average of 1500 miles from where it is grown to our plates? I recently visited my mother-in-law in central California where avocados, one of my favorite foods, is available locally-produced, year-round. Yet, if you shop in the big-box grocery store right there in near her house, the avocados are labeled "product of Mexico." That just seems ridiculous to me. And with food prices soaring because the of the unstable price of gas, wouldn't it be nice to introduce a little sanity to our diets. Want to help decrease our dependence on oil? Eat local!
  • Knowledge is Power - The current infrastructure of the food system is so vast and complicated there's no way to know where your food originates. Think about the Summer 2008 tomato scare. How many months did it take the government to narrow down the source of those tomatoes? Too long, and even then, is anyone really sure? Knowledge is power. When we buy local produce, we have the opportunity to speak face-to-face with the farmers growing our food, we can encourage organic farming practices, and in many cases even visit the very farms that nourish us. Want to know where your food originates? Eat local!
  • Tastes Better and It's Better for You - Food grown on small, local farms reaches your table faster, which means it was picked at its peak (often the day you purchase it). This means that not only does it taste better, but it's still packed full of nutrients, so it's better for you too! Want high quality, nutritionally dense food that tastes great too? Eat local!
  • Better for the Environment - Small local farms generally practice crops rotation (nutritionally diverse plants occupy the same growing space in different seasons - tomatoes in summer, perhaps peas in winter)which creates a more rich, nutrient-dense soil. And those same small, local farms, generally follow more organic farming practices than larger corporate farms. That means less chemical pesticides and fertilizers in our soil, in our water, and in our bodies. Looking for a cleaner, healthier environment? Eat local!
  • Better for the Community - A number of research studes have shown that of every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 comes back into the community. That's compared to only a $14 return when we shop at a big-box store. With the economy in a slump, we're all holding on to our pocketbooks just a little bit tighter. It couldn't be a better time to support our local farmers and businesses, our friends and family, and our community by buying local (and don't forget, it's better for our bodies too)! Want a heathy and vibrant community? Eat local!
So what are we waiting for? Local is the certainly the way to go. It's better for our bodies; it's better for our environment; and it's better for our communities.

Interested in eating local? Find out where to start in "A How To Guide to Eating Locally." In the meantime, happy (and mindful) Eating!


Melanie said...

Thanks for this! I just posted a link to your blog on my discussion group for a graduate class that I'm taking, and the traffic it may generate are people who'll be learning the "basics" of local eating. How exciting!

Danae said...

A great post, the more that we can persuade people all over the world to do this, the better place the world will be!

Sera x

P.S Do you mind if I borrow your 'Bee a locavore' picture to use as a little button to your blog on my sidebar? I think it's cute enough to spread the word ;)

hmd said...

Melanie - Thanks! I hope it helps the group!

Sera - I don't mind at all. Please feel free to use my icons. Spreading the word means a healthier population and environment. Eat local! :)

ilex said...

Nicely done. I'm so glad this is catching on and actually becoming normal. I've never understood why eating locally is considered elitist by the big-box shoppers. we've been eating locally since time immemorial- it's just since WWII that we could get foods from centralized locations. If anything, eating out-of-season food from 3,000 or more miles away is the very definition of elitist.

I hope that Tom Vilsack will be able to address the inequity of our agricultural trade policies, but he's from Big Ag Iowa, so I'm not holding my breath.

Chuck Bartok said...

I share so much with your Thoughts.

We raised our Children with a Truck Farm Providing our Neighbors with wholesome Food at Real prices.

Last year I recorded weekly an experiment to show others how easy to Enjoy Growing Tomatoes for Health and Wealth

Anyone can own this DVD for less than the cost of Family Pizza and I am donating 25% of sales to Food for Everyone Foundation

Order your DVD here

Thank you for helping me spread the good word and donate to a great cause


hmd said...

ilex - it is strange that something that was a part of our lives for so long (eating locally and growing our own food) now has to be re-learned. It sure is worth it though :)

Chuck - Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

Sam said...

I read this this morning and linked to it from my blog (having a cute logo didn't hurt). Thank you for the good summary

Anonymous said...

Great post thanks. Perfect timing as I am trying to start eating locally. I am yet to decide whether to try and do it full time and am deciding "what is local"?

I went to the local farmers markets on the weekend and was surprised by what is available...

hmd said...

Beany - Thanks! I've been trying to think of ways to get the word out there and decided I needed to put it in an easy to read format, linked at the side bar as an easy reference. So far, it's been well received. I think it's the bees. They ARE cute :)

littleecofootprints - I hope you ending up loving your farmers market as much as I do. I've made such wonderful friends there (they are the best at giving gardening advice) and the food... Well, it's fabulous!

I'm glad to hear you're thinking about going local. Check out today (Wednesday's) post and I lay it all out. If there anything I can do to help or if you have any questions, just let me know. Yeah for local!

Anonymous said...

To me, it is ultimate accountability. If you buy salad mix from the store, it could have been grown by a thousand different farms perhaps, washed at a few facilities, contaminated by anyone or thing in the chain and recalled in a minute. But, if Richard grew my broccoli, he eats this broccoli too, he doesn't spray it with anything. He'll tell you if he does. If I were to get sick, it would be highly unlikely the broccoli had anything to do with it. It is like that, I know what my food ate so I know what I am eating. They say you are what you eat, but food is a chain of consumption. The only ways to know are to trust the grower or grow it yourself.

hmd said...

Tammy - absolutely!

Unknown said...

great post!!!!!!!!

JoshK said...

Studies have been done that show there is more to the carbon footprint left by our food than how far it travels. How the animals are raised, and the products used in the process can outweigh the miles the food is shipped. Local is not always better.

In 2007 James McWilliams cites a British study that suggests a Food Industry Sustainability Strategy that seeks to consider the environmental costs “across the life cycle of the produce,” not just in transportation.

It is an interesting wrinkle on Eating Local (which I am strongly in favor of).