Wednesday, October 19, 2011

8 vital reasons to buy local food

The last of our Carolina okra in the warm October sun. Photo: Sally Kneidel
Check out these 8 reasons to buy locally-grown food. Buying local helps not only the environment, but also our health and the welfare of farm laborers.

1. Local produce tastes better and is better for you; it's more likely to be picked at its peak, when it's ripe. Ripe fruits and vegetables have more flavor and higher nutritional value. Their nutritional value decreases every day post-harvest.

2. Buying local supports farming families in your own community, and keeps the money circulating in your own community. Buying from local farms in the off-season, when their selection and their customer-base may be reduced, is especially important in keeping these farms afloat financially.

3. Paying attention to what's available seasonally adds variety and interest to your diet, while at the same time supporting local farms. For my family, eating seasonal foods makes us feel more in touch with the changing seasons outside. Autumn means collards and broccoli, the last of the okra...and pumpkins!

4. Buying local reduces your carbon footprint. Food scientist Richard Pirog calculated that the average produce travels 1,500 miles in 3 days to reach his state. Farther than that if you live on the East Coast. Shipping food across the country uses 17 times as much fossil fuels and emits 5 to 17 times as much carbon dioxide as distributing food within a local system.

5. Food from small farms is much more likely to be raised without chemicals, protecting our health and wildlife habitat. Chemical fertilizers used in agribiz are made from fossil fuels. Farm machinery such as harvesters and combines use fossil fuels. As we all know, fossil fuels are the main driver of climate change.

6. Buying local supports the rural way of life. Hundreds of thousands of small farms have gone out of business in the last decade. Corporations have taken over food production, and rural lands are being sold to developers to accommodate urban sprawl.

7. Although the number of small family farms is decreasing due to consolidation into large industrial farms, the number of organic or sustainable farms operated by young entrepreneurs is increasing. The number of farmers markets in the U.S. has quadrupled in the last 7 years, to a total of 7,175 in 2011. In just the last year, the number of farmers markets has grown by 17%! By buying local, we can help this new wave of small farmers fight back against industrial agriculture.

8. When you buy local, you are choosing not to support industrialized farms that exploit immigrant and minority laborers. On many such farms, illegal immigrants are threatened with deportation when they complain about injuries. For more information on abuses to farm laborers, see any of these articles:

Injustice on our Plates: Immigrant Women in the U.S. Food Industry
Food Industry Abuses Workers as a Matter of Course
Labor in the Food System
The Cruelest Cuts
Blood Sweat and Fear
Throwaway workers

Keywords: local food agribusiness fossil fuels global warming seasonal food family farms chemical fertilizers healthy diet farmers markets sustainable food sustainable farms immigrants labor rights organic top 10 reasons

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