“Eat local!” Now…what does that really mean?

 

Have you ever wondered why so many people are on this “Eat Local” kick?  I used to wonder the same thing and have now come to understand what eating locally means to me and to my health.

Simply put, eating local means you’re eating foods that were grown and harvested local to where you live.  So, what’s the big deal and why all the hype?  Here’s my take on it and the top reasons why I personally make eating local a priority in my life…

 

Local produce is fresher and has more nutrients.  Most of the produce found in the average large grocery store has traveled from great distances to get to you.  This travel takes time and therefore the produce is simply old and no longer fresh by the time it reaches your home.  From the moment the produce is harvested, it starts to lose it’s nutritional value.  Did you know that the average apple in a US grocery store is over a year old!  This is possible by storing the apples in a low oxygen, high carbon dioxide cold climate and spraying them with a chemical called 1-methylcyclopropene.  Not too appetizing if you ask me…

Less pesticides without paying the ‘Organic’ prices.  Many local farmers follow ‘organic’ practices but do not have the organic certification.  Being Certified Organic costs a lot of money so by buying from these local farmers, you’re not having to pay for their certification costs.

Fresher produce tastes better.  If you’ve ever tried a locally grown tomato compared to a grocery store bought tomato, I think you’ll agree with me on this one.  The photo in this article makes it quite clear as to why that is.  Tomatoes are picked when they are still green and treated with ethylene gas to turn them red before they’re delivered to the grocery store.  So…go for local.  Plus, the better the fruits and veggies taste…the more fruits and veggies you’ll want to eat!

Local farmers provide more variety.  Did you know that there’s such a thing as purple cauliflower? or yellow stringbeans?  Over the years, conventional farmers have focused on efficiency and production so the variety of what is available has taken a hit.  Did you know that there are over 1000 varieties of bananas worldwide!  But only one or two have ended up in US grocery stores due to the fact that those varieties have a long shelf life.  Having more variety makes cooking and eating healthy much more fun.

Better for the environment.  Less distance traveled means less emissions and a smaller carbon footprint.  Eating locally grown food for one year could save the greenhouse gas equivalent of driving 1000 miles!

 

Now the next question is…how do you shop locally?

 

Farmer’s Markets.  The availability and size of Farmer’s Markets is growing each year.  The local Attleboro, Providence and Pawtucket farmer’s markets that I most often go to have all nearly doubled in size in just a few years.  Farmer’s Market’s usually take place once or twice a week for about 4 hour blocks of time.  A wide range of local farmers and businesses come to one location to sell their product – you can find fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, cheese, eggs, prepared foods, beer, flowers, crafts, art, knife sharpening and more!  The energy at farmer’s markets is great and it turns a dreaded chore into an enjoyable event.  Find one near you by doing a search here.

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Signing up for a CSA is another great option that I tried out for the first time this year.  CSA members purchase an entire season of produce up front, directly from the farm.  This early payment provides the farmer with capital at a time when their expenses are high and income is low.  In exchange for their investment in the farm, members receive the season’s produce at a significantly discounted rate.  Most CSAs have a weekly pickup at the farm, and others will deliver to your home.  I signed up with Second Nature Farm in Norton, MA and was so pleased with the quality, variety, value and freshness of their produce.  Since the farmer knows exactly how many people will be picking up that day, they typically pick it fresh that morning…it doesn’t get much fresher than that!!

Grow your own!  This is a great, inexpensive way to have fresh veggies right at your door step, literally.  I’ve made several attempts to grow my own vegetables but have not had the best of luck – I’ve never had a green thumb but still encourage you to give it a try!  I suggest starting with something simple like tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, zucchini or herbs.