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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Does Buying Local Matter?

Food Security & Locally Grown Food:
Does Buying Local Matter?

“Buying local” is something we hear a lot about these days. But does it matter? Our grocery stores are loaded with food from all over the world, so why should we care about eating locally grown food?

Here are some reasons.

Buying locally grown food is good for you right away.

·    Better Nutrition. Food that’s eaten soon after picking has the most nutrition. Some foods are hardy, like apples and oranges, and don’t suffer much nutrient loss over time. But others, like broccoli, green beans, salad greens, peaches, apricots and tomatoes, lose some of their nutrition when they travel long distances to reach your plate.

·    Picked when ripe. Food that comes from far away is often picked before it’s ripe because it travels better. This means it has less nutrition because ripening adds nutrition to foods.

·    Tastes Better. Some people swear that local food tastes better. It’s hard to argue when you compare the taste of a local strawberry to an imported one. There are at least two reasons why local produce may taste better:
1.      Because it’s picked when it’s ripe, and
2.      Because it’s grown for taste.

Fruits and vegetables grown to be shipped are often selected because they transport well, not because they are the best tasting. Local farmer's don't have to worry about growing vegetables that can stand travelling thousands of kilometres. They can choose to grow the kinds of fruits and vegetables that taste best. 

Photo Credit: Burnaby Village Museum

     Fewer Pesticides. Local farms grow a variety of produce, which is a practice that helps reduce pests. This means farmers are likely to need fewer pesticides, even if they don’t grow organically. Bonus: If you buy at the farmers’ market and local market gardens, you can ask the farmer about how they grow their food.

·     Kids Learn.  When you take children to a farmers’ market or local farm, they learn that food is grown by real people on land near where they live. This can help them value farmland and farmers. Kids can also talk to the farmers and ask them questions, something most kids enjoy.

Buying locally grown food is good for the local economy.

·    Supports the community. Money spent in your community tends to stay in the community, which supports other local businesses and creates employment.

·    Supports farmers. When you buy at a farmers’ market or a market garden, you know the money you spend will help a local family keep farming. And that keeps farmland from urban or industrial development.

Buying locally grown food is good for our future.

·    Supports food security. Climate change is already disrupting global food supplies. Remember the drought and flooding in California? If we want to eat, and we want our children and grandchildren to have food, we need the availability of locally grown food. 

·    Creates fewer greenhouse gases. Most local farms are small and plant a variety of crops. Most huge farms produce only a few crops, or even just one – like acres and acres and acres of lettuce or corn. Monocrop farming depletes the soil, which then needs synthetic fertilizer. Because it takes fossil fuels to produce these fertilizers, more greenhouse gas is created.

     Monocrop farming also means that pests can really munch down on their favouritefoods without running into a barrier of plants they don’t eat. Lots of pests means lots of pesticides. And like producing fertilizers, making pesticides creates greenhouse gases.

·    It’s good for pollinators. Small farms produce a variety of crops. This biodiversity supports pollinators, essential to making our food.

There are other reasons to buy locally grown food, such as the pleasant experience of strolling through the market gardens and farmers’ markets. But the key, long-term reason is to make sure we are have farmland, farmers, and food locally available in a time of climate change and growing uncertainty. Buying locally grown food now is good for our future.

Photo Credit: Artisan Markets

Article Written By: Burnaby Food First Member Joyce Cameron

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