With all of the grocery shopping options out there, why would someone choose to buy and eat local food? Why eat local food when within 15 minutes of me, I have Walmart, Meijer, Target, Aldi and Costco, all vying for my grocery dollars with weekly loss leaders?
It’s a good question that deserves some thought. Why is it that most of us take the easiest and cheapest way when it comes to buying food?
Eating local requires us to be intentional.
Intentional with our meal planning.
Intentional with our food dollars.
Intentional with our time.
So, is it worth the extra effort to buy local food?
Yes. Yes, it is.
Why Buy Local Food?.
You might feel as though you can’t take the time or find the money to buy and eat local food. Busy families have a lot to deal with on a daily basis.
However, buying local food benefits you and your family in so many ways! I think it’s worth having a conversation about the importance of local food for you as well as your community.
Eat Local Food and Provide Financial Support for a Real Family
When we shop at one of the globally-owned and operated grocery stores, and you know the ones, our hard-earned dollars leave our community. Certainly, these big grocery stores employ our friends and neighbors, allowing them to support their families.
But do you know where your money is really going? Do you know what values these grocery conglomerates hold dear? And are you comfortable supporting those values?
When you buy local food, you are providing financial support for a real family in your community. These are families that you might see at church or at the gas station, flesh and blood folks that you are living with in your town.
Local farmers are real people, just like you, with families to feed and bills to pay.
Local farmers offer a superior product that is worth the time and money to pursue: fresh, nutritious, locally-grown food!
The food you see at the grocery store can be weeks old by the time you purchase it. Often times, produce is picked while it’s still green and then sprayed with chemicals that cause it to ripen very slowly. This is done so that the produce can survive the two weeks it will take to travel across the country (or sometimes the world!) to your grocery store.
Not only that, the nutritional value of that 2-week old food has been seriously compromised.
Local food doesn’t need to be sprayed to retard ripening! It is fresh, sometimes picked that day!
All of the vitamins, minerals and enzymes that your body needs from it’s food is fully intact in fresh, local food!
Buying Local Food Promotes Seasonal Eating
When I was growing up, I had no idea that food has seasons.
The grocery stores can offer food from all over the world, shipped in from multiple continents, without regard to seasons. How would anyone know what foods come into season when, without some research?
But, does it really matter? Does it matter if we eat strawberries from South America in December when we live in Ohio?
Much has been written about the connection between food allergies and eating foods that are not in season where you live.
A naturopath, who I frequented years ago, told me that when he saw food allergies in people, he recommended that they stop eating fruits and vegetables that don’t normally grow in their area. Tropical fruit like citrus and bananas can cause food allergies in someone who lives in Ohio.
Eating seasonally just makes sense to me. I’m quite sure that our bodies weren’t made to eat foods from the other side of the world, but that’s just my opinion.
Eating Local Food Adds More Variety to Your Diet
Some of the most nutritious foods in your area just happen to be the most difficult to package and sell.
Because of this, you may never have the opportunity to eat them.
I’ll give you an example.
Mulberries come to mind.
Mulberry trees are very common here in Ohio, I have more than a dozen of them on our property, none of which I planted.
Mulberries are a nutritional powerhouse! They contain certain anti-oxidants and other vitamins that you won’t find in other berries!
So why aren’t they are every grocery store? Or even at the health food store?
Because mulberries are very delicate, making them difficult to package and distribute. Mulberries must also be shaken down from the tree, using tarps underneath, not the easiest way to harvest berries.
Because of this, there are many of you who will never eat a mulberry and experience all of the amazing benefits it has.
Every part of the world has these types of delicacies that are only available on the local food market. Think of all the food you may never even know about if you didn’t know anything about the local foods that grow in your part of the country.
Local Food is Fresh
Food begins to age and deteriorate the minute it is picked.
Therefore, every minute counts in terms of how much time it takes to get the food to the consumer.
The fresher the food, the more nutrients will remain and isn’t that what you’re paying for???
Eating Local Food Promotes Employment
It takes people to get local food in front of the consumers who want it.
Growers and farmers often hire folks to help pick, wash, package and transport their produce to market. Supporting local agriculture might even give a member of your family a part-time job that will help makes ends meet.
Eating Local Food Makes Local Economy Strong
Local economies can only be strong when the community supports them.
Without local businesses, we are left with only the mega-stores to buy from and no one really wants that.
We need options when it comes to shopping! Small local shops can’t stay open without customers.
Eating Local Builds Relationships with Growers
Imagine that suddenly there was a huge food supply chain shortage in the marketplace. (Ahem, that would be now!)
You head to the store one day and all you see is empty, or nearly empty shelves.
That would be a good time to know a farmer.
As you buy local food on a regular basis, you will be able to develop a relationship with the people who can feed you when times get tough.
Eating Local Food Promotes Personal Food Security
When you buy local food, you don’t have to worry about empty shelves or a store closing down.
Your local farmer will still be right down the street, ready to take care of your family’s food needs.
Local growers are also a wealth of information with regard to other growers, who may not be well advertised in the area.
Support Local 4-H Groups
Until I moved to the country, I had never given much thought to 4-H or what it meant to our communities and the children in them.
4-H was developed here in Ohio by a man named Albert Belmont Graham in 1902. The first 4-H meeting consisted of about 30 boys and girls, who met in the basement of the Springfield, Ohio courthouse. Graham wanted to teach the children about how to plant corn, grow gardens, test soil, tie knots and identify local weeds, wildlife and insects.
By 1905, there were over 2000 students in this “outside of school” program! In time, with the help of THE Ohio State University, agricultural clubs were created all across the state of Ohio.
What does this have to do with you?
A lot, my friend. Your local 4-H club is educating and encouraging the next generation of farmers! We need the next generation of kids to be interested in agricultural careers if we plan to eat!
4-H does a lot to build a work ethic, responsibility and accountability in our community’s young people. The world could use a generation of hard-working, responsible kids, don’t you think?
Today, 4-H is in 80 countries and is a driving force in developing the next generation of farmers!
So, how can you support your local 4-H club?
Buy from your local farmers! Go to the county fair and support the kids as they show the animals they’ve raised! Buy market animals at the auction if you can afford to and fill your freezer!
It’s the Right Thing to Do
To conclude, let’s talk about how you can practically make time and money in your budget for local food.
First, make a decision that buying and eating at least some local food is important to you.
Second, set aside a little money for local food. Maybe it’s $10 a week or even 10% of your grocery budget.
Head on down to the local farmer’s market and buy some local honey or some fresh produce. Ask their names and get to know your local growers.
Show them that you care about them and their livelihood and they’ll reciprocate your business with the very best food around!