On my brother’s first visit to our new house in 2008, he teased me about the “Entering Farm Country” road sign he drove past on his way over. I wasn’t that excited about living all the way out here, away from the convenience and bustle of city living. But like most families just starting out, we could not afford a house in Vancouver so we headed out to the suburbs.
That’s where I discovered numerous small family farms nearby supplying local meat, produce, honey, and even cheeses. Up until this point I’d always bought my food at the grocery store. You know, like normal people. It had never occurred to me that people could grow food in my own neighbourhood. But once I’d had this epiphany, it got me thinking about how ridiculous it was to buy and eat food transported hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles when that same food could be found growing locally.
It’s not all or nothing of course. We buy local when we can, but I don’t have a problem with buying our staples, dry goods, spices, etc. from Costco or the supermarket. (And I still get my ice capps from Tim Horton’s!) I think that we all do what we can and what we feel comfortable with, but here are eight reasons to consider eating local when possible.
1. Local food is fresher.
When your eggs are laid that morning or your produce is picked the same day that you buy it, food is fresher. Local food doesn’t sit in distribution centres or need to be transported thousands of miles to make it to your door.
2. Local food tastes better.
Fresher food has more flavour and simply tastes better.
3. Local food is more nutritious.
When food sits waiting to go to market, it starts to lose its nutritional value. The fresher, the better.
4. Local food offers more variety.
Small local farms are able to grow different crops and more varieties than you would typically find in a supermarket. Particularly when farmers aren’t limited to “hardy” varieties that ship well, you can find all sorts of interesting and distinctive foods.
5. Local food helps support your local economy.
I love knowing my dollars go to help support local businesses and families just like mine. Buying local helps strengthen my local economy and, by extension, my community as a whole.
6. Local food is better for the environment.
By definition, local food utilizes less resources for transport and has a smaller carbon footprint. Non-industrially grown crops also tend to be grown with less fertilizer and pesticides, both of which contribute to soil and waterway pollution. Buying local also keeps farmland and green spaces viable in our communities.
7. Local food tends to be safer.
When you get to know your local farmers, you learn first hand how the meat and produce on your table get there. It’s easier to find non-GMO and no spray produce, and I can see how their livestock are treated. Animals raised on small local farms and ranches are much more likely to be treated ethically than those in large feedlots halfway across the country. Also, less transit time and fewer steps in the food distribution chain mean fewer opportunities for food safety issues to crop up.
8. Local food helps create community.
Eating locally and seasonally connects us with our food supply and with our community. Getting to know your local producers naturally leads to personal relationships. When my father-in-law died, the family that operates our local farm helped our family set up for the memorial and brought over four dozen homemade cookies. The apple guy at the local farmer’s market always has a “sample” apple for Tee and helped troubleshoot our plum tree canker problem. I don’t have that kind of relationship with the big chain supermarkets!