Everyone needs to eat, and we can get food in various ways. Americans have choices, including grocery stores, restaurants, fast food establishments and convenience shops. You may not think much about where the food you eat comes from, but some grocery store items come from thousands of miles away. Products can sit on shelves for a long time, losing nutritional value and flavor.
There’s another option: buying food from local farms. Doing so has many personal and societal benefits that make it worth the investment. Here are five reasons to buy your food locally.
1. It Tastes Better
Food is fresher when you buy from local farms because there is less time from farm to table. Local produce is in season and picked when it’s ripe, unlike food from hundreds of miles away.
There’s more flavor when a local farmer harvests fruits and vegetables at the peak of ripeness, rather than produce that ripens over several days or weeks. You’ll be buying flavorful and delicious items, offering the most bang for your buck.
The food will also be free from the coatings that protect foods and look good in grocery stores, such as wax on apples. It’s best to avoid these unhealthy extras if you can.
2. It’s More Nutritious
Food picked after it ripens on the plant is also more nutrient-dense and keeps its nutritional value much better than if transported. That’s because it doesn’t sit as long. Grocery store offerings will not be nearly as fresh as the food you buy locally.
Farmers must pick store-bought produce before it reaches ripeness, decreasing its nutritional value. More nutrients in food provide significant benefits to your body.
3. It’s Safer
Before food travels thousands of miles to your table, producers spay it with different chemicals and gases that preserve it. This practice is generally not harmful in small amounts, but some people are sensitive, and more significant amounts are bad for you.
Local produce is less likely to have exposure to these things. Small farms, even those that aren’t organic, use fewer pesticides than larger farms that mass produce food. You can also communicate with a local grower directly and know what they use and the safety measures in place.
Local food is also safer for the environment since pesticides contaminate soil, water and other vegetation. Transportation increases the carbon footprint, which harms the planet, making the environment less healthy for everyone.
4. It Creates Community Engagement
You are engaging with community members when you shop for local food, whether through a farmers market, co-op or locally supplied grocer.
Buying locally allows you to interact with those directly involved in the growing, transportation and selling process. This helps you build connections with community members you may see again in a different context.
These interactions strengthen the community to better interact and problem-solve in the future, providing a feeling of cohesiveness.
5. It Supports The Local Economy
Aside from strengthening the community socially, purchasing local food supports your regional economy.
Supporting local farmers helps them feed their families and keeps your money in the region. It also provides them with the funds to hire local workers, grow their business and attract new customers.
Buying from local businesses helps the community grow and thrive. You’ll feel good knowing your purchase strengthens the region you live in.
You can find local food at farmers markets, co-ops and some grocers. If you don’t have these opportunities in your town, you may be able to find food from a different county or nearby state. You get fresh, nutritious food while supporting your local economy and helping your community thrive.
When you buy local food, everyone wins.
Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.