Imagine traveling 1800 miles just to eat eggplant parmesan for dinner. Then imagine travelling another 1200 miles for a raspberry tart dessert. That may sound absurd, but we ask our food to travel that far to our kitchen tables every day.
If we calculated the distance our food travelled, we’d find it can be a more seasoned traveler than most people we know. And today’s food systems are extremely resource intensive with those food miles contributing to the overall footprint.
But supporting regional food systems is about more than reducing food miles. It’s about celebrating the relationships we have with the people who steward our food from farm to plate. It’s about supporting local growers and local purveyors, and learning about the intimate relationship they have with the soil and water around us. It’s about developing a deeper connection to place, and about redefining our understanding of the place we call home as an intimate and regionally unique dance between culture and geography. Here’’s why local matters to us:
When grown locally, crops are picked at their peak of ripeness versus being harvested too early in order to be shipped and distributed. Produce at local markets has often been picked within 24 hours of your purchase, providing richer flavor in every meal.
Local food has a shorter time between harvest and your table, and it is much less likely that the nutrient value has degraded. Food imported from far-away states and countries is often older, has traveled and sits in distribution centers before it gets to your store.
We’ve all experienced that disappointment when buying fruits and vegetables out of season. They taste blander, and go bad faster than freshly picked locally grown food. And in a day and age when so many things are repetitive, and mind-numbingly predictable, cooking with seasonal foods brings back a little playfulness, creativity and fun.
The money that’s spent with local farmers and growers all stays close to home and is reinvested back into the businesses and services in your community. Your local dollars enhance the economic vitality of your friends, neighbors and businesses. And local purchasing reduces the influence that shareholder-focused conglomerates have in our daily lives.
By purchasing locally grown foods you help maintain farmland and open spaces in and around your community. We know there are a lot of variables in this mix, and depending on the geographic region and the product, it can sometimes be more sustainable to purchase food grown further away. But we also know you’re more likely to learn from, look after, and even encourage more sustainable farming practices if your farmers travel the same byways as you do. When you know where your food comes from and who groww it, you know a lot more about that food. And you have more say about how that food is grown.
Globalized food systems complex and vulnerable in many ways. COVID exacerbated this fragility. The more steps there are between you and your food’s source the more chances there are for contamination. Food grown in distant locations also has the potential for food safety issues at harvesting, washing, shipping and distribution.