Guest Post by Megan Ray Nichols
Buying local is all the rage. Farmer’s markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs are more prevalent now than ever. If you’re wondering if buying food like this is actually a good thing for the environment, you’ll be pleased to know it is! There are many reasons why buying local food is good for you and your community. We’ll only look at a few here. Check it out!
1. Fewer Transport Costs
If you’re interested in protecting the environment, you won’t have any issue with trying to lower your carbon footprint. Shipping fruits and vegetables in from halfway around the world uses a pretty significant amount of fossil fuels. Farmers need to harvest the crops, just like it does when you buy it from a place down the road, but it also has to travel a much longer distance. Boats, trains and trucks may all be used to get a few boxes of tomatoes to your local store.
Additionally, shipping foods over long distances increases the chance of contamination and spoilage. When contaminated food reaches the public, it can cause health issues for consumers. Spoiled food is wasted, meaning businesses will take a hit to their profits. Fortunately, farmer’s market stand owners usually travel a short distance to sell their goods there, so they have a significantly smaller chance of spoilage which means the farmer can profit, which in turn boosts the local economy.
2. Put Money Directly Into the Local Economy
One of the reasons for the disappearing middle class in America is due to large companies siphoning out everyone’s money to the top 1%. Keeping your money in your community actually has an impact. Since local farms are often smaller they larger corporations don’t back them. Many are even multi-family farms who share equipment and land in order to reduce individual costs.
This results in an investment for the local economy. Local businesses who do all of their business in your area are forced to be more honest and ethical than those who have hundreds of miles separating the producer and consumer.
3. Help Support Small Businesses
If one of your complaints is that large corporations have too much power, then of course you should buy local food. New ideas and competition can’t exist if smaller companies are never able to get off the ground.
This helps promote small business growth, which is vital to supporting your local economy, just like the tip above. If your area is entirely reliant on large corporations, the town will suffer significantly if they move. Small businesses help make a town self-sustainable. Buying local food doesn’t just support farmers — it supports other small businesses as well. Farmers work with seed suppliers, truckers, other farms, restaurants and meat suppliers.
4. Learn How to Grow Your Own Food
One of the coolest things about a small business making a go of it is that they need help. They’re usually willing and excited to share their knowledge. If you go to a farmer’s market and ask around about how to grow vegetables, you’ll probably be invited back to someone’s farm!
Of course, learning to grow your own food is the best thing you can do. It’s surprisingly empowering to have control over your own food supply, especially when it works! You might spend an entire summer not paying for produce, then slowly expand to providing your own produce throughout the year.
5. Promote Diversity
Buying local promotes both biodiversity and cultural diversity, doing double duty. Small farms provide a wider array of produce in a smaller area. This is a huge benefit to the local wildlife. Of course, you don’t want them eating all of your plants, but the proper planting can reduce pesticide use, protect the plants and help the wildlife!
Cultural diversity encompasses keeping local traditions alive. For example, shoo fly pie is popular in small parts of the East coast, and traditional Native American cuisine can be found sparsely in the West. Food is a great way to preserve your heritage, whatever it is.
No matter why you want to buy local food, you’re doing a good thing. It helps the environment, community and yourself. Find a local farmer’s market and experience the benefits yourself!