It seems that everyone is trying to become more environmentally friendly by recycling, taking public transportation, or even trying to “green” their grocery shopping and dinner plates.
One way to help the environment—and enjoy fresh, tasty food—is to focus on fruits and vegetables grown locally, and meats that are raised nearby.
Local produce can be sustainable if it supports local farmers and communities and does not harm the environment during production. However, local or sustainable does not necessarily mean that the food isorganic. Organic food is produced with fewer or no fertilizers and pesticides than non-organic food.
Four benefits of locally grown food
- Because local produce doesn’t have far to travel from the farm to your kitchen table, it can be picked at its peak. This means it is fresher and has much more flavor than produce picked before it’s ripe and then shipped across the country or the world.
- Local farmers tend to grow more varieties of produce from heirloom seeds. These seeds are passed down from one generation to the next and generally shared among individuals rather than sold in catalogs. Using them gives each variety its own distinct flavors.
- Some locally raised meats and poultry are grass-fed or free-range and raised without antibiotics or added hormones. The proteins from these sources tend to be leaner (lower in saturated fat and higher in omega-3 fats) and have more flavor.
- Eating local foods can be a cultural experience. Discover local food when you’re at home or traveling. For example, indulge in tart blueberries in Maine and prosciutto ham cured in Parma, Italy. Take pleasure in the food you eat as well as where it comes from. Appreciate its heritage and tradition, and experience the culture from the region where the food was grown.
Seven places to find locally grown food
- Farmers’ markets
Spaces where farmers sell their produce in a local community park or parking lot are called farmers’ markets. They are a great way to meet the food grower, ask questions about the food’s production, and get tips for preparing great meals. You can also find specialty jams, spreads, breads, baked goods, herbs, eggs, and cheese at many farmers’ markets.
- Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
A CSA is a farm where people buy, in advance, a share of the season’s crops. Once the growing season is under way, CSA members get a weekly basket of the freshly picked produce. Occasionally, the farm will also enlist your help during harvest.
A U-Pick is a farm that opens its fields to the public during harvest so you can pick your own produce. Common examples are strawberry patches in the summer and apple orchards in the fall.
- Farm stands
A farm stand is a place, like a roadside stand, near the farm where a farm sells its produce.
- Food co-ops
Food co-ops are worker- or customer-owned stores or buying clubs. They usually support the local community by selling locally grown, raised, or prepared food.
Look for restaurants that support local farmers by preparing locally grown food and by basing the menus on seasonally available produce.
- Home gardens
Grow your own fresh herbs or produce in your backyard, in a window sill pot, or in a community garden.
Learn more about where to buy locally grown food in your area through these websites: