Let’s start by stating the obvious: food is important.
If you have a workout routine, your diet can make or break your efforts. Weight loss and muscle building are both nearly impossible if your diet is lacking. If you’re not on a fitness regimen, what you eat is still pretty damn important. Eating a well-balanced diet will keep you feeling better on a daily basis, and affects everything from acne to your mood to how well you sleep. On top of that, there’s a third facet of food that shouldn’t be ignored– it tastes good, and there’s nothing wrong with eating for pleasure.
We all need to eat, but we don’t always think about what we’re eating as much as we should.
And no matter what your primary motivation for eating is, I guarantee that you’ll be eating better if you start making an effort to eat local and with the seasons.
Mother (Earth) Knows Best
Tie on your bandana, throw up a peace sign, smoke a little grass if it’s legal in your area and that’s a thing you’re cool with, and channel your inner hippy. When it comes to eating well, mother earth knows best.
It’s elementary school science class material: different foods grow in different regions and at different times of the year. Boom. You just passed biology.
Science facts aside, if you make an effort to eat food that’s grown in your neighborhood at this time of year, you’re going to be eating the freshest– and usually healthiest– food available to you. There’s less time between when food is harvested and when it ends up on your plate, meaning it’s not going to have to be frozen for transportation. And if you’re shopping at a farmers’ market, odds are that you’ll probably be eating food that’s grown to be flavorful, not food that’s grown to be pretty and shipped off to supermarkets.
Fresher food is more flavorful, and since it’s not frozen or shipped for weeks at a time, it’s going to be more nutritious too.
It’s Better for Your Community
The food you eat is going to be better when you’re eating local, but you’re also going to be doing a lot to make your community a better place. Typically, when you’re eating local, you can cut out the middlemen and buy directly from farmers and other growers.
As someone who grew up in a rural community, I can attest to the fact that farmers have to grow a lot of food to be able to sell to distributors at a profit. I’m talking acres and acres and acres of usually a single type of produce (soybeans, tobacco, or corn where I’m from) that they can then sell to processing plants or chains. But even then, those farms are becoming fewer and further between in rural communities as more and more major stores adopt the practice of factory farming and other techniques for cutting their costs and maximizing profits.
I can also attest to the fact that the small farm farmers who go to farmers’ markets are typically the nicest people you can buy food from. Sure, there are a couple surly old men who sit behind food stands and grumble prices at you, but the vast majority are way more enthusiastic about the fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other goodies they’re selling. Many can tell you the exact variety of what they’ve grown, how to tell what is freshest, and some can even tell you the history of what’s been grown on their land going back a few generations.
(Read this next sentence in the voice of an infomercial salesman.)
But wait, there’s more!
My favorite part of buying directly from farmers is that you can get heaps of fresh produce at prices that are typically cheaper than what you can find at a chain grocery store and it means more direct profit for the farmers themselves. You’re saving money and the farmers are making money. Overall, that means more money that can go into the local economy.
It’s Better for, well, Everybody
The impact of buying local produce goes beyond your immediate community, too.
Since you’re cutting out the need for distributors to transport produce from one side of the country to the other– or one country to another– you’re not contributing to the need for trucks, trains, and plains to carry food for you, emitting greenhouse gases as they go.
More importantly, there’s also the very human element of supporting fair labor. When you’re buying directly from small farms, you’re typically supporting people who are working on their own terms. Major food producers often exploit poor farmers in the developing world, exposing them to cruel labor practices and dangerous chemicals so that you can get bland produce that’s been bred and crafted to look pretty. That’s usually not the case with small, local farms.
How to Know What to Look For
When you’re wanting to buy and eat fresh, local food, start by checking for local farmers’ markets. If there aren’t any near you or if they’re not currently in season, then look for local labels at a local grocery store (especially locally-owned grocery stores).
You can also get an idea of what to look for by checking out this Seasonal Food Guide. This is one of my absolute favorite websites. You can select the time of year and your location, and it tells you what kinds of foods are fresh and available in your area. There’s also a mobile app. They make it easy to find food that's near you and delicious.
So, what's on your table this week?