Understanding the “Eat Local” Food Movement

The “Farm-to-Table” movement, the “Slow Food” movement and “Community Supported Agriculture” (CSA) are all trying to get you to do one thing; eat locally.  That means you purchase food direct from the grower; consuming food that is grown in a radius of 100miles from where you live.

The “Slow Food” movement started in Italy 17 years ago and currently has 70 chapters in the United States.  It promotes shopping for fresh foods from local farms and markets.  The buzz words they use are:  local, seasonal and sustainable.

The “Farm-to-Table” movement promotes the eating of foods grown locally, relying on seasonal produce for your food, and buying food at local organic farms and markets.  I don’t see much difference from the “Slow Food” movement.

A CSA or Community Supported Agriculture is when members pay upfront for a share of a local farmer’s harvest.     A local farmer will sell so many shares, members then equally share that week’s harvest, usually paying lower prices for the produce.  Members also benefit by enjoying absolutely fresh products because they were just harvested that week.  The farmers benefit from the upfront money to help them with planting costs.  There are some down falls to this system, weather being one.  You never know when a drought etc. will hit wiping out crops and you don’t get your membership fee back.  And your choices are limited to what your farmer can grow in your area and what has ripened for harvest.

Let’s look at the benefits:

Fresh Food — It doesn’t get much better than out of the ground or off the tree and into your hand.  No middle man processing, no picking early and letting it ripen while in transit.  No nutrients lost while in lengthy transport.  Better taste.

Organic — Most local farmers are able to grow vegetables with methods that don’t bury loads of chemicals in the ground.  Less pesticides and chemicals are better for you and the earth.

More Variety – 8% of all farms = 68% of all agricultural production.  These large agri-business farms often plant fewer varieties of foods for example producing only tomatoes that travel well or can maintain a long shelf life.  Local farms often grow many varieties of produce, resulting in more selection for you.

Building Community Connections — When you support a local farmer by buying direct you are putting more dollars back into your local community.  The farmer can charge more when selling direct than when he sells to a middleman that then must increase the cost in order to make a profit, consequently the farmer makes more money.  And you the consumer can spend less to get good quality produce because you don’t have to pay the middleman mark up.  A monetary win for everyone.

Saving Fuel — 1500 miles is the average distance food in your grocery store travels.  That is a lot of transportation.  With local grown there are very little energy costs with processing and transporting.  (With fuel prices what they are, don’t blame your grocery store for the rise in costs of goods).

There is a downside:  You drastically reduce some of the best foods on the planet by limiting yourself to your growing area.  Isn’t one advantage of our transportation systems the ability to bring food from anywhere around the world right to your front door?  In winter in the Midwest I don’t want to be limited to root vegetables.  And who wants to give up Hawaiian Pineapple, Maine Lobster, Alaskan Salmon, Greek Olives or Brie from France?  We are global food shoppers and we love ethnic foods that can only be found in countries far from home.

I think there is room for both global foods and local foods.  Find a balance in your area between the farmers’ market and the supermarket and all of us win.


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