The Benefits of Eating Locally
Eating locally isn’t a very “new” idea in terms of food trends, but I think it’s one we should expect to stick. The benefits are enormous when it comes to choosing between a large grocery store and your local farmers and food producers, not only for your personal health but your community as a whole. If you haven’t checked out your local farmers’ market, or if you’ve been thinking about it but have never managed to get your butt there on an early weekend morning, think again! Aside from the environmental impact, you’re missing out on gaining and contributing to some pretty amazing things:
1. Local Produce Tastes Better
If you don’t believe me, just ask the thousands of shoppers who have brought Farmers’ Markets all over the province, country, and even internationally, back in full force! Some of the world’s best chefs are really taking inspiration from the “Farm to Table” movement. This food revolution focuses on produce grown for taste, appearance and nutrient density over some standard agricultural concerns such as: ability to be packaged and stored for long distances and durations, uniformity of colour and size, etc. Entire food festivals are being created to feature local farms, local chefs, and the incredible foods they create.
Local food is fresh – generally farmers pick the crops within a couple days of bringing them to an event. Just think about how far some of your vegetables need to come before they get to your plate. Vegetables and fruit grown in Mexico or California have to spend days if not WEEKS on a truck or in storage, traveling to your location. There is just no comparison – and if you’ve ever grown your own tomatoes, or remember your Grandma’s wild blueberry pie, you’ll know!
2. Local Produce Has More Nutrients
In line with most topics in nutrition – this one is a giant generalized “it depends”. Every step of the production and distribution process is a factor and contribute to the overall nutrient density of any given food. Some of these factors include: crop variety, ripeness at harvest, how it’s packaged, how long it it stored in both warehouse & in transit, and more.
As I mentioned, generally in large-scale farming, crops are chosen for their yield, ability to survive transport, and growth rate, while local farmers tend to focus more on nutrient density, taste/texture, or fun and new appearances (think candy cane beets!).
Although there are certain foods that through their own innate “hardiness” can withstand longer storage times and still maintain their nutrients – most produce is subject to a nutrient decrease by the time it arrives on your plate (Vitamin C levels are one of the hardest to maintain). Of course, cooking itself can alter or even destroy some vitamins, but it’s always a good idea to get your food as FRESH as possible. When it comes to apples, citrus etc, they can usually handle a little more transit time knocking around in a truck, but especially when it comes to more fragile foods such as broccoli, leafy greens, tomatoes, peaches etc, check out what your local producers have available.
3. Buying Food Locally Keeps Money in Your Community
Every time you purchase even just a head of lettuce from a local farmer, instead of having that money funnel and move around all over the place, that money is likely going to be redeposited right back in your community by that farmer’s family. When you shop locally, you support a real person, a real family, and you can make an incredible difference in the lives of your fellow community members. Many families still own farmland handed down throughout the generations, but with food production leaning more and more towards large-scale, monocultural practices, many mom-and-pop operations are being forced to shut their doors. Purchasing from a local farm not only allows these families to stay in their homes, but to also keep their family’s dream alive. Many young entrepreneurs are fleeing from the cities in an effort to live more natural, earth-centred lives, and are hoping to become the next generation of farmers – buying local supports their dreams too. To check out an infographic on Farmers’ Markets click here.
Shopping locally used to be the “norm” – there weren’t many other options but buying your flour from the local farmer, your home repair needs from the local hardware store, or your lemonade except from the boy with a stand down the street. Nowadays, most products are just a click or phone call away. There’s a lot less beautiful human interaction involved, which leads me to my last point:
4. Shopping Locally Feels Good.
Walking through the market can quickly become one of your weekly highlights. There are so many friendly faces, new products to discover, and new friends to meet. Because these producers are so passionate about their products, they’re usually quite happy to tell you about their practices, the fertilizers or feed they use, and what their favourites are. The customer service is hard to beat – and it always feels incredible handing someone money for a job well done. Instead of a quick “Tap” on the Interac machine and barely any conversation with the harried cashier, why not have a meaningful moment? We’re all so stuck with our noses in our technology, and yet as humans, we crave and NEED human interaction. If you’ve been feeling a tad lonely lately, take stock of where you may be breezing past potential moments of closeness, and readjust. The farmers’ market just may be the perfect place for you!
If we’re neighbours and you can make it to the North Bay Farmers’ Market – make sure you check out their website here, or their Facebook page here. If you’re a bit of a health nut and a foodie and want some more information about eating and buying locally, we have an incredible group in town: Near North Locavores who provide and advertise workshops on a variety of topics (this week it’s “Beekeeping”!) and can help connect you with producers in the community.
Carlson, Kristine. “The Benefits of Eating Locally Grown Foods.” The Whole U – University of Washington. N.p., 29 Apr. 2016. Web. 09 Jan. 2017. <https://www.washington.edu/wholeu/2016/04/29/the-benefits-of-eating-locally-grown-foods/>.
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Klavinski, Rita. “7 benefits of eating local foods.” Michigan State University Extension. N.p., 13 Apr. 2013. Web. 09 Jan. 2017. <http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/7_benefits_of_eating_local_foods>.
“The benefits of eating local foods.” The benefits of eating local foods | Food and Dining Services – McGill University. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2017. <https://www.mcgill.ca/foodservices/sustainability/green/local>.
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