By: Angela Ciroalo ~
Once supermarkets began importing produce from other states, and even internationally, the concept of foods that are “in-season” has become increasingly misunderstood.
Today, we are able to walk into just about any supermarket and purchase a watermelon in December and a sweet potato in July. What many of us do not always recognize is that depending on the region that you live in this may not be the time of year that these foods are grown. As a result, the foods are transported for days and even weeks in order to find their way into your supermarket. In Michael Pollan’s New York Times Best Seller Book, “An Omnivore’s Dilemma,” he explains that on average food will travel 15,000 miles from the farm to your plate.
In an effort to decrease the environmental and health implications associated with eating foods out of season, Pollan, along with a number of farmers, environmentalists, health advocates and many others are in support of the Eat Local Movement.
What Does it Mean to “Eat Local?”
Eating local can be defined in a variety of ways dependent upon who you ask. According to a 2012 paper published by Roslynn Brain for the Utah State University Department of Environment and Society, stated that researchers have found that eating local is most commonly defined as “minimizing the distance between production and consumption, especially in relation to the modern mainstream food system.” In an effort to better define this term, the 2008 Farm Act was created which states that products can be marketed as locally or regionally produced if the food is sold within 400 miles of the farm or within state boundaries. More often retailers will recognize “local” as “within county lines” which would include a farm within the county you live.
How to Eat Local
When reading the term “Eat local” there are two ways to eat local foods. The foods can be either “Direct-to-consumer” [farmer to customer] or “Direct-to-to-retailer/food service” [farmer to restaurant, school, organization, etc.]. Therefore, if you are not able to purchase food from a farm you may be able to purchase local foods from a grocer or restaurant.
For those interested in purchasing foods directly from the farmer there are a number of ways to buy fresh, local produce from our local farmer. One way to visit a Farmer’s Market in your town. Throughout Monmouth County there are a number of farmer’s markets offered each week during the summer months. To learn more about specific farmer’s markets, visit www.GrownInMonmouth.com to find the Farmer’s Market Directory. You can also contact the Monmouth County Division of Economic Development.
Another option is to visit local farms in your area. Some farms allow you to pick your produce. This also allows you, and your family, the opportunity to learn how your food is grown and the practices of the farmer. There are many factors involved in farming. It can be beneficial to learn if the food is organic, if pesticides are used during farming, how the soil is managed, along with much more.
Why Eat Local?
There are a number of benefits to eating local foods. To name a few, the benefits of eating local foods include: economic, environmental, health, taste, and social.
When purchasing foods directly from a farmer there is no middle man in the process. Therefore, the proceeds are directly distributed to the farmer and your community. In Brain’s 2012 article it is stated that “buying local keeps approximately 65-percent of your dollar within the community, whereas shopping at large chain stored keeps on 40-percent.” Furthermore, each time you purchase an item you are essential “voting with your dollar” meaning you are voting to buy more local, sustainable foods rather than conventional foods from a supermarket. Eating local foods may also support the nation’s food security.
The environmental benefits of eating local foods are vast. Local farms generally use smaller areas of land therefore creating more food with less land use. Purchasing local foods also eliminates the transportation and fossil fuel used during the transport of food from across the country or world. Lastly, consuming local and organic foods decreases the use of genetically modification of foods therefore supporting genetic diversity in produce.
In support of our health, local farms generally are more cautious in preventing safety risks. The foods are grown on a much smaller scale and are therefore handled and cared for with increased precision.
As a result of the decreased transport time from the farm to the consumer, the freshness and nutrient content of the food is increased. The fresher the food is the increased amount of nutrient content the food has to offer the consumer. The increased availability of nutrients in the food support absorption of these nutrients within the consumer and therefore supporting their overall health and wellness.
On a social level, buying locally allows the consumer to better familiarize themselves with their community, their neighbored and their local retailers. A sense of community is often created between the consumer and the farmer therefore developing a level of trust and relationship.
To learn more about eating local, visit jerseyfresh.nj.gov to find a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) near you, a list of farms in New Jersey, along with many more great resources that can connect you with local farmers.