The farm-to-table movement is a growing trend that’s rapidly expanding to areas big and small, rural and urban, all across the States. A big part of this movement is buying and preparing foods grown and produced closer to home.
For the most part, I consider myself to be an avid supporter of this movement. I believe that there are a lot of benefits to be had from supporting a more local food system. So, I make a conscious effort to shop as locally as I can, as often as possible.
But, often doesn’t mean always and I do still take some help from conventional foods purchased in regular grocery stores.
4 Reasons I (Often) Choose to Eat Local
There are a ton of benefits to sourcing foods closer to home! Including:
At Green Mountain at Fox Run, we really emphasize the importance of eating good tasting food.
Eating delicious foods is critical to the satisfaction we feel from a meal. When we choose to eat foods grown closer to home, they’re picked at the peak of ripeness, which means that when they land on our dinner plates they’re super fresh.
Maybe one of the clearest examples is difference in the quality of a tomato I buy from my local farmer’s market, and the one that has travelled thousands of miles to get to the conventional grocery store.
The former is tender, juicy, and so delicious. The latter, often hard, mealy, and tasteless.
2. Nutritional Value.
Because local foods don’t have to travel nearly as far to get to us, their nutrient content may be superior to that same food that has travelled thousands of miles, to supermarket shelf.
There are a few reasons why this might be the case, but they all have to do with travel time and distance:
- To prevent foods coming from far away from arriving rotten, they need to be picked before they reach peak ripeness so they have a longer shelf life. Nutrient profiles aren’t fully developed at this point which may yield a product with lower nutritional value.
- It takes time for foods to make the journey from the field to truck to store shelves, and finally onto our plate. As time passes, the nutrients in those fresh fruits and vegetables will begin to degrade.
- The elements to which the food is exposed along its journey (temperature, humidity, light, etc.) can also lead to nutrient degradation.
So, the fewer steps it takes to get that food from the farm to the table, the more nourishing the food will likely be.
3. Local Economy.
Buying food from your local farmstand or farmers’ market, or looking for local food products in your regular grocery store, keeps your money in your community.
So not only are you getting a fresher, tastier, and more nutritious product, you are supporting your fellow community members, too.
When we buy food closer to home, we feel a stronger sense of connection to our food, to our community, and to our farmers.
There is something about eating local that brings people together and fosters a greater appreciation for our food, where it comes from, who grows it, and the people with whom we get to share it.
4 Reasons Why I Don’t Eat Exclusively Local
The reality for most of us though, is that eating exclusively local would be really, really challenging, if not impossible.
So, while I wholeheartedly support embracing local eating as is realistically possible, I don’t feel bad about taking some help from the regular supermarket. Here’s why:
Most regions are not conducive to growing all different types of foods. The fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein sources to which we’d have access would be significantly restricted if we limited ourselves to only foods that are grown within a 100-miles from our homes.
For me, that would mean saying so long to pineapple, avocado, and salmon – foods that, frankly, I enjoy too much to give up.
And while the nutrient content of some foods might be greater when we buy them closer to home, if our option is getting a food from faraway places or not getting it at all, then we may be depriving ourselves of nutrients by intentionally avoiding this food all together.
I’m thinking Alaskan salmon – one of the best sources of heart health omega-3 fatty acids out there. Alaska is certainly not within a 100-mile radius of Vermont. But, without it, I’d have a hard time getting in my omega-3s.
Most of us don’t live in climates that support year-round production of many foods, nor do most of us have the time or know-how to put up our own food to last through the off season.
In order to meet our nutrient needs year-round, most of us will need to supplement with foods from far away. And, that is okay!
Life is busy and we don’t want to add eating to our list of stressors.
Sometimes running to the farmstand for a single cucumber isn’t practical – even if it is peak cucumber season. As soon as we start to create rigid rules about how we should be eating, the pleasure that we get from procuring, preparing, and eating our food is stripped away.
Life is unpredictable and flexibility is critical to maintaining our sanity.
If we were all to rely solely on local food to feed ourselves and our families, it’s quite possible that many locations would not be able to meet the demand.
This is especially true when crop yield is affected by too much, or not enough, rain during an already too short growing season. We are fortunate to live in a place with abundant access to food, where we know there will always be enough.
The takeaway: there are many benefits to buying local – but that doesn’t mean to embrace the farm-to-table movement you must buy exclusively local. Buy what you can, when you can, locally, and fill out the rest with foods we are fortunate enough to be able to access in the supermarket.