One of the most popular food trends in the past year or two has been local food. So why is eating local all the rage, and what can you do to be part of this growing movement?
What is local?
We need to start by defining the word local. It has different meanings to different people, but I define local as being as close to home as possible. With food, that would mean buying food raised or produced as close to your home as possible.
To purists, or locavores, local means buying food within a set radius, such as 50 or 100 miles. To others, local means as far as a day’s drive from where you live. Because geography and growing is different around the country (and world), I opt for a more flexible definition.
Technically, this means that any food you buy close to your home is local, even conventional or industrially produced food. So inherent within the local label is the concept of sustainable. Try to avoid food from a large industrial operation, no matter how close to your home it is. The best way to tell if a farm is industrial is to find out how big it is and how diverse its products are. A very large farm producing only one crop is most likely industrial – when you plant the same crop on many acres, you attract pests, which means you have to use pesticides. So focus on smaller farms, ones that have different types of crops, and find out what their growing practices are.
When you’re shopping for local food, look for local sustainable food from a small independent family farm. That means minimal chemical pesticides and fertilizers were used, the land and everything on it was treated with respect, and every effort was made to provide you with the most wholesome, nutritious food. In general, smaller farms are more sustainable because they tend to grow a variety of crops and undertake conservation practices such as crop rotation, so they usually have less problems with pests. But it’s always wise to find out exactly how your food was produced before you make the decision to buy and eat it.
Why buy local?
There are many reasons to buy local, including –
– Taste. Local sustainable food is most often picked when ripe because transport time to market is so small. It is also usually grown with minimal inputs such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This provides you with better tasting food.
– Better for you. Food raised close to home will not be shipped long distances so will be harvested when ripe, giving you optimal nutrition. Industrial food shipped long distances is harvested before ripe, shipped, and sometimes sprayed with chemicals to preserve or forcibly ripen it.