We know the benefits to business when we buy locally and we want to support them, true. It builds communities, reduces waste and is substantially healthier for us. But in these tough economic times, it is hard not to be seduced by the abundance of cheap vegetables, meat and dairy lining the aisles of our supermarkets. Thanks to the globalisation of the food industry, we are able to access all foods all of the time and cook affordable meals. But what’s the catch? This article fills the metaphorical basket of reasons why we should eat locally; it’s economic, environmental and not to mention, health benefits.
What do we mean by ‘local’?
Freshly grown produce within a ten to one-hundred mile radius produced by smaller, independent farmers is generally considered locally produced. This can be anything from
ruit and vegetables to meat and dairy and even preserves and honey.
Unknowingly, society is increasingly paying a higher price for the convenience of cheaper supermarket products: the hidden costs we are not told about. Higher taxes, for example, to support the funding of agricultural subsidies and our water courses are so polluted with pestcides and nitrates that we now pay higher water rates for the privilege. The Sustainable Food Trust (2018) reported that for every £1 spent on supermarket foods such as meat, fruit and veg and dairy, another £1 is spend on the environmental damage it causes such as soil destruction, taxes, filtering water and the damage to public health.
Luckily, the demand for locally produced food is on the rise. The idea that we can now trace our food back to source has become something of a trend; not only supporting a diverse food economy, it creates jobs and resilience within our local food supply chains. Purchasing local produce means that your money goes directly back in to the pockets of local farmers, restaurants and suppliers, further aiding the supply of opportunities and jobs in the area.
The riper the fruit or vegetable the more nutrients it contains. And because it doesn’t have as far to travel, locally sourced produce can be left to fully ripen, unlike imported produce that needs to be harvested early to allow for transportation. A study by Montclair University compared the nutritional content of seasonal broccoli and that of an imported one, finding the seasonal one had around 50% more vitamin C. Most farmers pride themselves on organic produce: free-range eggs, grass-fed meats and healthy pastures make way for tastier, fresher food that prides itself on taste, with fewer chemicals needed to preserve it for a long commute.
Local farmers can only grow what the seasons will allow, providing us with great health benefits. The natural cycle of produce is designed to support our digestive system and allows our bodies to work alongside nature. Leafy greens, for example, detox our bodies after the warming foods of winter and in summer, we are hydrated by fruits such as cucumber and berries as a result of their water-dense composition.
‘Food miles’ is a term coined to describe the distance food takes to get from field to fork.
Imported foods travel thousands of miles, meaning more fossil fuels and carbon emissions are used to make this possible. On a smaller scale, buying locally means the farmers operate within their communities, resulting in less travel. Consumers easily access regular farmers’ markets by walking or cycling as opposed to driving to out of town superstores. Large supermarkets chains create huge carbon footprints by importing food from around the world, then storing it at distribution centres before filing out lorry loads across the country.
Furthermore, intensive farming requires much more mechanical effort and the use of excess water, negatively impacting our ecosystems. This agricultural practise is damaging to our environment– with 30% of global greenhouse gases coming from intense agriculture.
Where Can I Shop Locally?
Farmers’ Markets- usually once a month, here you will find local produce at reasonable prices. A great way to build foundations with the local community.
Local farm shops and green grocers. Often the supplier to your local restaurants; take advantage of the best and varied produce that you will not find at larger supermarket chains.
Meat and vegetable box deliveries- many local producers will offer packs of meat and vegetables delivered to your door, complete with creative recipe ideas.
Grow your own- a fantastic way to get the family involved. What could be more satisfying than cooking up a meal grown in your very own garden?