Convenience is king in our time-poor lives today. Supermarkets have become an all encompassing one-stop for the weekly household shop. Shopping malls are the mecca for all other things we could possibly need. While this has happened, farmer’s markets have become a little more “quaint”. They have become more of an “outing” than a regular purchase point.
During our series on food waste, we focused on the end of food’s lifecycle. Now, we are switching perspectives, looking to reduce waste and environmental impacts from the front end. Our purchasing choices can make a huge difference. Earlier this week, I mentioned the importance of local businesses and why they are essential threads in the fabric of our local communities. Amongst the reasons I mentioned- local businesses contribute to the community identity, encourage local purchases, create local jobs and create a tighter-knit community vibe.
Local businesses may make up the essential fabric, but farmers provide the heartbeat for our local communities. Locally grown food is a broad term. It describes food that has been grown within geographical region near your particular location.
Our Aussie farmers understand our soil and climate better than almost anyone else. Consequently, they are able to provide abundant amounts of food, season after season. Despite this, we continue to look elsewhere. We have grown accustomed to having a variety of food available, whenever we want it (despite the season and where it was grown).
In terms of health, environmental, economic and social impacts, here are a few benefits of purchasing locally grown food,
Health benefits of locally grown food:
It’s more likely to be pesticide-free:
Many local farmers choose to use natural pest-repellents to preserve the health of the food they distribute, if they choose to use anything at all. In contrast, foods produced for larger clients, such as supermarkets, are often mass sprayed with pesticides to preserve the visual integrity of the produce.
It’s more likely to be preservative-free:
Locally grown food isn’t required to be transported across the country or international borders before reaching it’s consumers. Therefore, it doesn’t need added preservatives to keep it fresh during transit.
It has higher nutritional content:
Consuming locally grown food is the best way to ensure you eat seasonally. When you eat food that is grown during its natural season, its flavours are more full and its able to be picked at it’s peak nutritional profile.
Environmental benefits of locally grown food:
Reduction of food miles:
“Food miles” measures the distance that food has travelled from the place it was produced to where it will be sold to the consumer. The more food miles food travels during it’s transportation, the more fossil fuels used, which therefore produces increasingly higher carbon emissions. Locally grown food will travel a minimal distance compared to food grown further away.
Preservation of local farmland:
Eating locally grown food ensures that local farmland is protected. This land may have otherwise been developed for industrial or commercial use. Local farmland can help protect the natural biodiversity of local flora and fauna.
It preserves genetic diversity:
Food that is grown for commercial contracts tends to use a limited number of genetic seed strands to ensure visual standards and specifications are met. In small-scale farming, farmers can use a variety of produce types helping to preserve the genetic diversity of produce which provides more options to the consumer.
Economic benefits of locally grown food:
It keeps money circulating within the local community:
When you choose to spend money on locally grown food, it keeps your money in your community, helping your local growers prosper.
It gives farmers a fairer dollar:
When we purchase food directly from local farmers, they are able to retain more profits from their sales. They don’t need to share profits with large commercial partners (who also need to cover costs like storage, transportation and energy).
It spins the local food economy:
Local food producers can supply their produce to other local businesses such as restaurants. Consumers are becoming more aware of where their food comes from. They are attracted by restaurants that offer local food. This makes local restaurants successful, and in turn, they can further support the local farming economy. It is a complimentary cycle of local consumption.
Social benefits of locally grown food:
It empowers the consumer:
Consumers are growing increasingly savvy about where their food comes from. Purchasing locally grown food gives consumers a chance to learn more about how it was grown. This awareness encourages local farmers to use sustainable agricultural practices and be more accountable in choosing chemical-free growing practices.
It supports local families:
Farming is often a family-run business and a way of life that has been preserved over generations. By purchasing locally grown food, you are ensuring that these family businesses continue to thrive.
Choosing to purchase locally grown food is an important way to support your local economy. Learning and discovering the stories and growers behind your food is a beautiful and rewarding experience. If you start making small weekly purchases from local food producers, your dollars will go a long way to strengthening your local food system.
The benefit to you? More food for your dollar, better tasting, more nutritious food and the assurance that your food has been grown in the best possible way.