Why Buying Local is Best...
The basic concept of buying locally is simple, buy as close to home as possible. Buying locally supports a more sustainable food system and economy for the community we live in, so everyone benefits.
An easy way to start buying local is to choose one or two products to focus on. Vegetables and/or fruits are an easy place to start. Fruits and/or Vegetables can also offer a good introduction to seasonal eating, which is another great reason to learn about the local farms in the area. Here in Northern Virginia we are very lucky to have such a great selection of so many local farms right at our door step, with numerous farmers markets every week. Please see the links at the bottom of the page for a full listing of all of the farmers markets in Loudoun and Fairfax County as well as the entire state of Virginia.
Once you get in the habit of getting fresh fruits and veggies from local growers, branch out to get meat, eggs, and dairy locally as well. There is no comparison in taste and experience.
Just a few reasons to choose to buy locally:
Local food tastes better.
Local produce is picked at the proper time to ensure peak freshness and the best flavor. Food from far away is older and has traveled hundred or even thousands of miles by truck, train or plane. It has been handled numerous times during shipping and has sat in warehouses, docking areas and supermarket shelves before it finally gets to your table. Local food tastes better because it is simply fresher.
Local produce is more nutritious.
The less time that passes between the farms to the table, the fewer nutrients fresh produce will lose. Locally grown fruits and vegetables contain more nutrients because they are picked at their peak freshness, transported shorter distances and sold directly to the consumer.
Local food travels fewer miles to get to your plate.
Typically "Local food" is classified as having been grown within a 100-mile radius. The farther food travels, the more energy and gasoline must be used to get the food to your plate. Buying local will save energy costs and valuable non-renewable resources. A typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table.
According to the Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC), “Transporting food long distances uses tremendous energy: it takes 435 fossil-fuel calories to fly a 5 calorie strawberry from California to New York.”
Local food preserves genetic diversity.
While conventional farming practices mono-cropping with limited plant varieties, smaller local farms often grow many different varieties and rotate their crops to provide a long harvest season with an array of different colors and flavors. In 1866, 1,186 varieties of fruits and vegetables were produced in California. Today, California's farms produce only 350 commercial crops. Try different fruits and vegetable as often as possible to enjoy new flavors and to support biodiversity.
Local produce can benefit the environment and wildlife.
Small, local farms are run by farmers who live on their land and work hard to preserve it. They protect open spaces by keeping land in agricultural use and preserve natural habitats by maintaining forest and wetlands. Well-managed farms conserve fertile soil and clean water in our communities. The farm also provides a habitat for wildlife. In fact, studies show that sustainable agricultural practices can actually increase food production by up to 79%. Local Farmers can take care of their land, support local markets, minimize packaging and delivery of goods, and harvest food only when it is ready to be consumed, thus farmers and the people who support them, can significantly reduce their environmental impact.
Family farms are incredibly important to protect.
In addition to producing fresh, nutritious, high-quality foods, small family farms provide a wealth of benefits for their local communities and regions.
Perhaps most importantly, family farmers serve as responsible stewards of the land. Unlike industrial agriculture operations, which pollute communities with chemical pesticides, noxious fumes and excess manure, small family farmers live on or near their farms and strive to preserve the surrounding environment for future generations. Since these farmers have a vested interest in their communities, they are more likely to use sustainable farming techniques to protect natural resources and human health.
The existence of family farms also guarantees the preservation of green space within the community. Unfortunately, once a family farm is forced out of business, the farmland is often sold for development, and the quality land and soil for farming are lost. In America, we've been losing more than an acre of farmland per minute.
Independent family farms also play a vital role in rural economies. In addition to providing jobs to local people, family farmers also help support small businesses by purchasing goods and services within their communities. Meanwhile, industrial agriculture operations employ as few workers as possible and typically purchase supplies, equipment, and building materials from outside the local community. Rural areas are then left with high rates of unemployment and very little opportunity for economic growth.
There is something really nice about knowing that the farmer or farm that is growing your food is directly financially benefiting from all of that hard work. Currently in the U.S., a wheat farmer can expect to receive about six cents of each dollar spent on a loaf of bread—approximately the cost of the wrapping. However, buying from a local farm or Farmers' markets enables the farmers to keep 80 to 90 cents of each dollar spent by the consumer.
Knowing your farmer or farm is a time-honored connection between grower and eater that is missing from today’s world of not knowing where food comes from, how it gets to your plate and what impact it took to get it there. Knowing where your food is coming from and exactly what is on your plate is a wonderful feeling. Once you make the change, you will never go back.
Helpful and Fun Links: