It wasn’t long ago that virtually everyone ate locally-grown food. Today, we generally purchase our produce–grown in Chile, Guatemala, even China–while pushing our grocery carts down fluorescent-lit aisles.
A new trend is to become a locavore, someone who chooses to eat locally-grown food. There are an impressive number of benefits to eating locally:
- Food that has not travelled thousands of miles is fresher, tastier, and apt to be more nutritious.
- Buying locally keeps our food dollars here at home.
- Locally-grown food benefits the environment as well. One study concluded that food grown and distributed through the conventional system (large, commercial farms and long-distance distribution) used 4 to 17 times more fuel while releasing 5 to 17 times more carbon dioxide.
GROW YOUR OWN. There are several ways to eat locally, but you can’t get more local than your own backyard. Growing your own can be a real money saver whether from vegetables grown in a patio tub or in a bevy of raised beds in the “way back.”
Northern California garden writer, Rosalind Creasy, reports reaping a whopping 238 pounds of organically-grown food from her spring and summer garden, carved from her front yard. Read about her project at www.rosalindcreasy.com.
When growing your own produce you know exactly what you’re eating. You are in control of the kinds of pesticides (if any), fertilizers, and amendments used.
Gardening also offers emotional, physical, and mental benefits. “Playing in the dirt” reduces stress; the exercise and sunshine help build stronger bones. And, you can share the result of your endeavors with friends, neighbors, and food pantries.
JOIN A CSA. Short for Community Supported Agriculture, a CSA is a farm which provides fresh, local produce to subscribing members. CSAs take the work out of eating locally since deliveries may be provided as well.
In Tuolumne County, Bald Mountain Farm and Red Earth Farm both provide “box-a-week” locally grown produce (www.farmsoftuolumnecounty.org). Outer Aisle Foods, located near Murphys, delivers weekly to Tuolumne and Calaveras counties in the summer and every other week in the winter.
BE A FARMERS’ MARKET AND TAILGATE SHOPPER. You also keep your money close to home when purchasing at farmers’ markets and roadside and tailgate stands. You can ask questions of these vendors to find where and how their products are grown.
Be sure to encourage markets and restaurants that support our local farmers. The food we eat can be no better than the ingredients we start with.
Vera Strader is an enthusiastic vegetable gardener and frequents local produce markets.