Local Food

Official seal of the National Organic Program
Image via Wikipedia

You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: buy local, buy local, buy local! In the hierarchy of buying produce, we’re told to look for local first, organic second, despite how the word organic has become a catch all phrase in the realm of green-living. But what’s the big deal about it? And what is it that makes it more important than the ever hyped organic? As it turns out, buying local is a much bigger deal than most people realize, and in fact is one of the best examples of sustainable living that there is.  And while organic is a good thing at the “production” level, the ripple effects of buying local stem out to each of the major basic tenants of sustainable living.

 First, buying food from local farms starts with reducing waste at the, for lack of a better term, roots. Oftentimes, local vendors (of produce in particular) are running much smaller businesses, which often will naturally have more sustainable practices in terms of crop rotation and pesticide use, simply because of the reduced volume they are producing.  And though many local farmers may not be technically considered organic producers, this doesn’t mean they aren’t organic! Purchasing official Organic Certification comes with extensive fees that oftentimes local farmers can’t afford, however in most cases, they do employ all, or many, organic practices.  In addition to this, when a vendor is producing much lower volumes, there is less waste in terms of fruit rotting on the vine, or going bad during transportation, which is likely to happen in at least some percentage with larger companies.

 This brings us to point number two: transportation. This is a pretty simple concept, but one of the most significant factors in why buying local is such a big deal. And it’s just as uncomplicated as you think it is: if an apple is traveling all the way from Oregon to New York to get to your mouth, that’s a lot more ground to cover than traveling 20 miles from your local farm.  For example, a sample study of local food vendors in Iowa showed that food that went to area distributors from local farms traveled an average of 44.6 miles, as opposed to 1,546 miles it would typically have traveled from a non-local vendor. That’s a 1,501.4 mile difference, and with a typical 18-wheeler running on approximately 5 miles to the gallon, that’s over 300 gallons of gasoline per truck. And if those weren’t enough numbers for you, in 1997, there were 1,790,000 food distribution trucks on the road in the United States, clocking over 20 billion gallons of gas that year alone, and numbers, along with population, have only gone up since.

 The third factor as to why choosing local is the way to go is because, well, you’re choosing local! Supporting local business is a safe bet in the fight to be sustainable, and keeping money in the local economy ensures that it’s not being spent backing big corporations, which often employ unsustainable practices.

 For more information on buying local in Rochester, visit: http://www.inforochester.com/marketsfarmer.htm

Sources:

http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs/staff/ppp/food_mil.pdf

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070123142622AAQH6th

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