Benefits of Supporting Your Local Farmers
Eating local is all over the news lately and this is a good thing. America's farms are dying and it isn't even a slow death. It seems that more and more farmland is being turned into housing or strip malls. The farms that feed most American's are massive operations that grow just one crop and these farms are frequently under the control of huge food companies. That isn't what most people think of when they think of a farm. Supporting your local farmers is a great way to bring back some of how farms used to be, but there are many more benefits as well.
The typical farm that provides fruits and vegetables for their local community is fairly small compared to the farms that feed the nation. Because of this small scale operation these farms are typically not going to be using the large scale pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers and many of them are farming organically. Local farms typically grow many different kinds of crops, frequently providing the rotation needed to benefit the soil and the plant without all the chemicals of the larger monoculture farms.
By supporting your local farms and farmers you are keeping your food dollars in your community. Do you realize that most of the food in the grocery store comes from just a small handful of farms? These few farms that provide the needed ingredients for the processed foods in the grocery store get very little of the money you spend on groceries. The money paid goes to pad the wallets of executives of these corporations - while their farmers struggle to pay their bills and put food on their own tables. By purchasing your fruits, vegetables and many other items from your local farms you are helping those farmers provide for their families.
These huge farms providing the corn, soy and wheat that American's eat so much of typically use genetically modified seeds. These seeds are not good for you, but yet most of our food is being grown from these seeds. A small farm isn't going to be purchasing these GMO seeds. In fact many small farmers use heirloom seeds which will give the consumer a wider range of better tasting foods.
When you purchase foods locally you are also reducing the carbon emissions required to get those foods to your table. This can have a large impact on the environment. Purchasing a food that traveled just five miles from the ground to the table, compared to thousands of miles for those same foods bought in the grocery store is a small step with a huge impact on the planet.
Purchasing foods local to you also means you are getting more nutrients from the foods. Each day after a food is picked from the tree or vine, it loses vitamins and minerals. For a tomato to travel from California to where I am in Ohio it has to be picked while it isn't even ripe yet (meaning it doesn't have as many nutrients to begin with), artificially ripened on a truck while it travels cross-country, and finally after a few days to a week it is placed in my produce department. That tomato isn't going to be nearly as good for me as the one that was picked down the road that very morning.
Locally grown foods taste better than store bought. For the same reasons that they lose nutrients, they lose flavor too. If you don't believe me then try your own taste test. Sometime during the summer, buy a tomato from the farmer's market and then buy a tomato from the grocery store. Do a taste test yourself and see the difference.
In the summer and fall it is easy to find locally grown foods because farmers markets are aplenty in most areas. You can find locally grown and raised foods year round though by looking on the Eat Wild website as well as the Local Harvest website. If you haven't purchased from local farmers before they typically offer much more than fruits and vegetables. We have purchased meats, eggs, cheeses, honey, bread, jams and more from farmers near us. Supporting your local farmers is a wonderful thing to do and I highly encourage it.