14 Reasons why you should support your local farmers
Eating local means more money stays within your community. Every dollar spent generates twice as much income for the local economy. Growing up in Estonia, being fed by the goodies from my grandparents farm, picking up berries during the season by myself, collecting greens from my backyard, going for the mushroom hunt in the autumn… this was all part of my parents educating me about the importance of nutritious local vegetables and fruits. From the young age I knew what is edible in the nature and when is the right season to pick it. Supporting your local farmers is important because the more land that is cultivated organically decreases the overall usage of chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers and increases biodiversity in our local ecosystem.
Most kids today don’t know that the bananas they eat daily are imported from tropical countries or that the strawberries they see in their cereal in the winter may have had to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles. Kids today don’t know this because supermarkets carry all foods imaginable all year round and quite normally it’s assumed that this abundant supply is natural and permanent. This misguided thinking brings with it several hidden costs to us all, most particularly in the area of environmental damage, but not exclusively. Most of us aren’t aware of these other costs because all we’re aware of is the advantage of having anything we want at any time we want. Eating with the seasons, however, can provide many benefits that families can enjoy and feel good about in addition to helping to shape kids into environmentally responsible citizens.
1. Farm fresh: Fruits and vegetables you find at the grocery store are often several days old before they even reach the produce aisle. Before produce hits supermarket shelves, it ships in refrigerated trucks, possibly from thousands of miles away. Farmer’s market produce, on the other hand, is nearly the antithesis of grocery store fruits and vegetables. In most cases, the owner of the stand picked it just that morning, so you know the food is as fresh as you can get it outside of growing it yourself. This freshness not only affects the taste of your food, but the nutritional value. Locally grown fruits and vegetables are often allowed longer to ripen, because they do not have to be “rugged” or to stand up to the rigors of shipping, and so can be handled less.
2. Eating local means supporting farmers and producers. By buying locally grown food you’ll be strengthening your community by investing your food dollar close to home. Only 18 cents of every dollar, when buying at a large supermarket, go to the grower. 82 cents go to various unnecessary middlemen. Cut them out of the picture and buy your food directly from your local farmer. There’s no doubt local family farms have decreased in numbers over the years, succumbing to the high cost of running a farm and increasingly stiff competition from giant conglomerate-run farms that produce massive amounts of extremely cheap produce. Purchasing fruits and vegetables from farmer’s markets, however, supports local family farms, giving them the valuable capital they need to keep operating and providing consumers an alternative to mass-produced foods.
3. Tastes better: Try this. Buy a tomato from the supermarket and a gorgeous heirloom tomato from the farmer’s market. Now taste them side-by-side and see what you think. Produce from the farmer’s market almost always tastes better. This is because it is picked at the peak of ripeness and is incredibly fresh when it gets to you. If you start adding farmer’s market produce to your cooking, you’ll be amazed at the difference in flavor and texture.
4. Organic and non-GMO: Many farmers participating in local farmer’s markets use organic methods to grow their produce. Most label it as such, so you can be certain you are purchasing chemical free products. They also are more likely to use non-modified seeds. Organic farming is better for the soil, the environment, and your body.
5. Buying local food keeps us in touch with the seasons. By eating with the seasons, we are eating foods when they are at their most flavoursome, are the most abundant, and the least expensive. Some nutritionists and scientists suggest eating seasonally available foods is better for your body, because humans ate seasonal produce for thousands of years before refrigerated shipping changed all that. Still, eating produce in season only makes sense. Lighter fruits and vegetables are available seasonally in the spring and summer, while heartier winter vegetables like squash and parsnips provide sustenance for the cooler autumn and winter months.
6. Ripe: Offerings at the farmer’s market are generally picked at the peak of their ripeness when the plants’ natural sugars are at their peak. Eating produce when it is ripe not only tastes better, but it also provides the best nutrition possible.
7. Non-industrial: Just like everything else in this country, industrialized farming has become the norm. These giant factory farms grow massive amounts of produce, shipping it all over the world. Giant corporations run industrial farms, driving local family farms out of business.
8. More nutritious: One look at the vivid colors of produce found at the farmer’s market, and you’ll be able to tell just how nutritious the fruits and vegetables are. Compare that to produce at the grocery store, and you’ll see that the supermarket fruits and vegetables pale in comparison. Vivid colors in fruits and vegetables are a reflection of the nutrients they contain. Many local farmers cultivate extremely nutritious produce through their careful farming methods.
9. Supports local economies: Most farmer’s market produce is grown within 100 miles of the market. This means that the farms are a source of local jobs and likely to spend money they make on their produce in the local economy.
10. Better for the environment: Along with conserving fossil fuels, small family farms produce less environmental waste in the form of carbon monoxide, pesticide use, and chemical fertilizers. They are also less likely to utilize giant processing and sorting machines that contribute to environmental decay.
11. Provenance: When you shop at the farmer’s market, you know where your food has been. You can talk with the farm stand workers to learn about the farm’s growing and processing practices. In many cases, you can even visit the farms to see how they grow and handle the produce you are serving to your family.
Social: The farmer’s market is a great place to gather. Visiting is a fun family activity, and you can meet members of your community. Some farmer’s markets even offer entertainment and classes, making it a terrific way to while away a fall afternoon.
12. Variety: The farmer’s market offers a dizzying array of fruits and vegetables. Industrial farms tend to grow only a few varieties of popular vegetables. Small local farms, on the other hand, tend to favor variety, offering fruits and vegetables you just won’t be able to find in the produce section of your local supermarket.
13. Affordable: For the sheer nutrition you get from farmer’s market produce compared to supermarket produce, it’s a really good value. Grocery stores tend to charge an arm and a leg for organic fruits and vegetables. At the farmer’s market, however, they are typically not much more expensive than conventionally grown produce, and the benefits to your health are likely to save you money on healthcare expenses over the long-term.
14. Buying local food is investing in the future. Our present industrialised food system involving transporting food long distances is dependent on the artificially low energy prices that come with ‘cheap oil’. This will not last forever. World oil production has already peaked, according to some estimates, and while demand for energy continues to grow, supply will soon start dwindling, sending the price of energy (and food) through the roof. Why wait to re-evaluate our food systems when we are forced to, when we can start to build resilient local economies now by supporting energy efficient agricultural methods, like smaller-scale organic agriculture, and local production?