Local foods are grown or produced locally, within a certain radius such as 50, 100, or 150 miles away…or for that matter, within your own back yard. Local foods can be found at farmer’s markets, community gardens, food co-ops, and through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
During the 20th century, we have seen a huge shift in how food is grown and distributed in the US. Family farms have given way to corporate farms where producers and consumers are separated through a chain of processors, shippers and retailers. With an increase in industrial food systems, the quality control is decided increasingly by middlemen and less by farmer and consumer. If you’ve ever had a large, shiny, yet totally tasteless apple, you know what I mean. It may have looked great on the shelf, but taste and nutrition have suffered.
The local foods movement has been steadily growing, bringing awareness to consumers about where and how their food is grown and distributed. This awareness has brought about a collaborative effort to increase locally based, self-reliant food systems. Food grown and produced locally creates a positive effect on the local economy (dollars start and stay in the community), the environment (soil, watershed, sustainable farming practices) and ultimately the health of those who consume it.
Quality and taste are far superior in local foods because the food is fresh, picked at the peak of ripeness (not weeks before to allow for travel) and eaten within hours or days of harvest. The need for chemical preservatives and irradiation to artificially extend shelf life is reduced or eliminated. The true effects of processing, preservatives and irradiation on nutrient and enzyme content are much debated. However, common sense tells us that food closest to the way it’s been consumed by humans for centuries is truly the healthiest and most beneficial.
Help Yourself and Your Community
There are many ways to connect with your community’s local food networks. Websites such as www.localharvest.org and www.foodroutes.org are a great place to start. Or, try out your own green thumb! It’s easier than you think to have a small garden. In fact, the National Gardening
Association states that 7 million U.S. households will plant a garden this year (up almost 20% from last year). In addition to the health benefits of having your own garden, the financial benefits are a great added perk. For example, a packet of fifty tomato seeds is costs about $3, and it takes about six seeds to grow 100 pounds of tomatoes. If you’re buying tomatoes anywhere else for $2.50 per pound, that’s $3 compared to $250!
Another great way to participate in your community’s local food production is to support a local farmer through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). CSAs allow you to buy a share of a farmer’s crops (many times a group of families will split a share) and receive a fresh basket of produce each week.
No matter how you slice it, fresh, local foods make sense for health, nutrition and the economy. Shop a farmer’s market, start your own garden, or join a community garden or CSA today!
By: Julie Kokinakes Anderson, RD, LD
the new well Corporate Dietitian
For a local food option in the Rogue Valley, check out www.roguevalleylocalfoods.com