Buying Local: Why It Matters
By Jay Betts
Taking a bite of food — it’s such a simple act.
But as climate chaos affects food production with wild swings of drought and rain, it’s vital for everyone to be conscious of the future of the environment, even as we nibble.
Smaller scale, sustainable food production can be an antidote to environmental damage caused by factory farming and massive applications of pesticides and fertilizers. By choosing food with mindfulness, what you eat not only provides nutrition, it also positively impacts the entire community. The Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts is working hard to connect local farmers and food producers with consumers. Their effort grows the local economy and helps protect the environment. Here are just a few reasons why adding “homegrown” on your grocery list can make your community more vibrant.
Keeps Money at Home
Buying local keeps more money in your community. Your food dollars not only go to a local farmer, but they also go to local taxes and create more jobs at other local businesses. And farmers are able to cut out the middleman. Wholesale prices paid to farmers are often barely more than the cost of production. Selling directly to the consumer allows them to get full retail price for their food. That sometimes means the difference between success or having to sell the farm. When farmers are paid more for their product by marketing locally, they’re less likely to sell their land to developers. Buying locally means you’re contributing to the continuing existence of agricultural land and family farms.
Source (Boston Local Food Festival)
When you pick up a head of lettuce or a cut of beef at the big-chain supermarket, you have no idea where it came from. But do the same at a local roadside stand or farmers market, and you know exactly who you’re buying from and how it was grown. You create a closer relationship with the producer because they’re neighbors and this connects people directly with the farmers and food producers. Knowing the farmer often allows you to take your family to the farm, to learn more about agriculture and the importance of protecting our food sources. We all know how difficult it is to keep our property healthy and productive; imagine how much work goes into it on a farm! Having producers talk to your children about cover crops, crop rotation, and no-till fields helps them appreciate our food sources. Buying local also means you’re helping keep farms in the community for the foreseeable future, to ensure food security for locals.
Fresh Tastes Better
You’re not waiting on a truck to deliver when you buy local fruits and vegetables, and they don’t need to be picked early for shipping. The food you buy in a large grocery store is not ripe when plucked from the ground. It has traveled by truck, train, or plane and sat in warehouses. The time between the field and your table can drain vital nutrients. Locally sourced produce is left to ripen in the fields due to how quickly the farmer can sell it. This gives you peak sweetness and flavor. Ripe produce also retains maximum nutritional value.
Protects the Environment
When food has to travel, it costs money and it impacts our environment. Some items at the grocery store have journeyed as far as 1,500 miles. Buying local reduces our carbon footprint. It decreases the amount of fuel used, and the pollution-causing emissions put out by trucks and planes. It also cuts out the need for packing factories and refrigeration facilities.
Many local farmers grow their food organically. Small-scale organic farmers may produce a wider variety of crops offering customers interesting new foods. This crop diversity can include plants that are resistant to insects, decreasing the need for pesticides. Deep-rooting plants help stabilize the soil and need less fertilizer. And drought-resistant crops require less water. Keeping chemicals out of the soil and air and using less water tremendously benefit the environment.
Source (Boston Local Food Festival)
It may not be realistic to go completely local, but the more you can, the better for your community and the environment. You can learn more about buying local and sample some of the best the Boston area has to offer at the 2019 Boston Local Food Festival.
This is the 10th annual festival and showcases farmers, local restaurants, fishermen, and organizations that focus on healthy food! You can eat, shop, learn, and play. More than 50,000 people attended last year’s festival. More than 90% said it made them aware of the importance of buying local, and 87% said they would now start buying more local products. This year’s Boston Local Food Festival is Sept. 15 and it’s free!
Jay Betts is an aspiring farmer and freelance writer who prides himself being eco-friendly. He enjoys finding new ways to practice green-farming with no chemicals.