With over 8,144 farmers’ markets across the nation (USDA National Farmers Market Directory, August 2013), a 2012 estimate of nearly 6,500 CSAs nationwide, and a growing interest in starting farms by entrepreneurs, young folks, and those transitioning out of first careers, buying local has never been easier. You can be part of the movement by shopping at farmers’ markets, joining a CSA, or searching out local products at your local grocer or restaurant (and asking them to offer even more!). By doing so you will reap the benefit of knowing your food dollar is doing all it can to keep the local food movement strong.
You’ll Get Exceptional Taste and Freshness
On average, food travels 1500-2500 miles from farm to table. Local food is fresher and tastes better than food shipped long distances from other states or countries. Produce picked and eaten at the height of ripeness has exceptional flavor and, when handled properly, is packed with nutrients. Local farmers can offer produce varieties bred for taste and freshness rather than for shipping and long shelf life. Fruits and vegetables shipped from distant states and countries can spend as many as seven to fourteen days in transit before they arrive in the supermarket. Most fruit and vegetable varieties sold in supermarkets are chosen for their ability to withstand industrial harvesting equipment and extended travel, not taste. This results in little variety in the plants grown.
You’ll Strengthen Your Local Economy
Buying local food keeps your dollars circulating in your community. Local family farmers spend their money with local merchants. The money stays in town where it benefits everyone and builds a stronger local economy. Independent, family-owned farms supply more local jobs and contribute to the local economy at higher rates than do large, corporate-owned farms. Getting to know the farmers who grow your food builds relationships based on understanding and trust, the foundation of strong communities. The $10 Buy Local Challenge by Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimates that if every household in Virginia spent $10 a week on local products we could add a $1.65 billion dollar to our state economy (VDACS Press Release, March 2012).
You’ll Support Endangered Family Farms
There’s never been a more critical time to support your farming neighbors. Family farms are an important part of the American tradition of self-sufficiency, forming the bedrock for communities across the U.S. Since 1935, the the number of family farms in the U.S. has dropped from 6.8 million to 2.2 million. Fewer than one percent of Americans claim farming as their occupation, and only 45% of them claim farming as their primary occupation. Meanwhile, large corporations increasingly dominate U.S. food production–four large firms control over 80% of beef slaughter, 60% of pork packing, and 50% of broiler chicken and turkey production.
With each local food purchase, you ensure that more of your money spent on food goes to the farmer. For every dollar spent at the grocery store a farmer will only see, on average, 16 cents. If you purchase directly from the farmer, however, that number goes up to between 80 and 90 cents.
You’ll Safeguard Your Family’s Health
Knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown or raised enables you to choose safe food from farmers who avoid or reduce their use of chemicals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or genetically modified seed in their operations. Buy food from local farmers you trust.
You’ll Protect the Environment
Local food in season doesn’t have to travel far. This reduces carbon dioxide emissions and packing materials. Buying local food also helps to make farming more profitable and selling farmland for development less attractive. When you buy local food, you vote with your food dollar. This ensures that family farms in your community will continue to thrive and that healthy, flavorful, plentiful food will be available for future generations.