How can you Benefit from Local Foods and the Local Food Movement
There is a good healthy frenzy going around in the food world as a collaborative effort to build more locally based self reliant food economies. One in which local food production, processing, distribution and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a particular place or geographical area.
I strongly support the idea where small entrepreneurs work hand in hand with local communities to promote their carefully produced products to an offset market not too far from their home base.
A United States department of Agriculture publication describes local food as “related to the distance between producers and consumers” as well as “defined in terms of social and supply chain characteristics”. The second part of this description is much more significant for the producers and consumers than the first part, because ultimately you decide how far you wish to travel to buy the produce you want.
The consumers approach:
What I like about the whole idea? It brings the consumer a significant step closer to the food chains. How food is produced, how derivatives from certain produce is made, think cheese and honey.
Why producers believe in organic produce, grass fed livestock and why they believe in a ‘free roaming’ environment for animals.
We should all believe in the relationship between people, earth and food. That is what we eat and what we eat is our health. The understanding that healthy produced sustainable food can ultimately bring about change, to people, to communities and to the earth as a whole,
It needs to be noted that not all produce labeled as local is sustainable, industrial produce and marketed within the geographical radius which is considered ‘local’ should not but can be labeled as sustainable. Producers that market real sustainable produce play therefore a big role in the local self reliant food economies. It is them that open their doors to the consumers and give insight to what sustainable local produce is all about.
Various programs have been established to promote local produce and more and more people in various communities support healthy produced and sustainable produce. There are the farmers markets to visit and get acquainted with a wide array of local produce. Another program exists where communities buy a part of the production of a particular farm and in some cases you can harvest produce left behind on a field and harvest yourself. The choice is yours.
Food safety, health and nutrition are important considerations for consumers to decide why they should choose the local farmers market above a supermarket.
High levels of food production lead to increased use of chemicals to keep foods ‘fresh’ for a longer period of time necessary to process, store and transport. Small amounts of food borne bacteria can lead to disastrous consequences in these consolidated environments.
Long distance transportation systems require fuel which in return produces high levels of emissions, bad for the environment as a whole.
Local produce direct from farms do not require these practices and a different (correct) approach by the producers has health and nutrition in mind. Fruit ripens better and with more nutritional value on the mother plant, the fruit can be harvested close to peak ripening time.
Variety farming, smaller quantities per variety, result in produce with higher nutritional value by virtue of their variety in comparison to crops only produced for high yields. Grass fed beef is higher in good cholesterol (lower in bad) and higher in vitamin A and E, lower in fat and contain more antioxidants than factory produced beef.
Sustainable foods also use less (or no) pesticides, antibiotics and hormones commonly used in high production farming.
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United States says that “food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs for an active and healthy life”. Well that sums it all up.
The overall advantage:
The local food movement is, as evidence indicates, an economy booster for local communities. They are more likely to spend their dollars on farm related investments locally than the large scale manufacturers.
What is in for the consumer? Meeting your neighbor at the farmers market is good for your social life. Share the experiences you had with local produce. Buddy shop if a seasonal product is too much for you to handle.