Why should I eat local food?

I’ve been talking a LOT about local food lately.

 

It’s summer and when the weather gets warm I quickly become obsessed with my garden (where I grow herbs, vegetables, and fruit), the farmers market, UPick, local roadside stands, foraging in the woods, and buying in bulk to can and freeze all of this gloriously delicious local produce so I can continue to eat it all year long.

 

What do you love most about local food? Add your voice to this conversation in the comments below!

 

My kiddos love to harvest vegetables from our backyard garden. Just last week we harvested potatoes and the kids LOVED the treasure hunt to find the potatoes Robbie missed!

 

Because of this obsession, I’ve created a couple of free workshops to help you incorporate more local food into your life. In these workshops, you’ll find videos, checklists, recipes, and a downloadable ebook so you can access all of the resources offline at your convenience.

 

Home canned tomatoes and dilly beans. This photo is from August 2019. We ate these all winter long… using the tomatoes as a base for chili and other soups, and the dilly beans as a tart and crunchy snack. I bought the tomatoes in bulk from my farmers market. The beans came from our backyard garden. I’m almost done with a new course, Preserve Local Food for Eating All Year Long, to help you learn more about canning, freezing, and dehydrating. I’ll cover these specific techniques and provide my favorite recipes!

 

Eating more local food is fun, nutritious, and builds resiliency in both ourselves and our community (by creating strong local food systems that can financially support farmers making a decent living).

 

The average produce in America travels 1,500 miles from the farm to your plate. This is the most commonly referenced statistic (and its explored in great detail in this Slate article), but I’ve seen this number as high as 5,120 miles! All of this transportation causes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and contributes to global warming.

 

In addition to reducing these GHG emissions, eating local has the following benefits to you and your community:

  • Fun adventures for you and your family – my kids LOVE picking berries. They LOVE eating fresh raw corn on the cob that was picked only hours earlier by a local farmer and placed on a tiny little farm stand in their front yard. They LOVE picking cherry tomatoes from “their garden” and popping them straight into their mouth, juice squishing out the sides as they laugh out loud. They LOVE foraging in the woods for mushrooms, wild berries, and ramps for hours on end. Robbie and I LOVE experiencing each and every one of these adventures with them.

 

My youngest daughter kissing her strawberry in the UPick field in June. If thats not joy, I don’t know what is! In Michigan strawberries have come and gone, but there’s still lots of time to incorporate local food into your summer diet and preserve some for winter too!

 

 

Robbie at a roadside stand near Northport, Michigan. This was the perfect “pull over the car” moment as we were driving to the nearby State Park for a fall camping weekend.

 

  • More nutritious food – smaller farmers often grow more interesting and nutritious varietals and the speed to market means there are more vitamins and nutrients in your food.

Produce at farmers markets is often picked ripe and sold within a day. That translates into fresher, more nutritious food because the vitamins and other nutrients haven’t had time to break down, says Lauri Wright, Ph.D., R.D.N, assistant professor of nutrition at the University of North Florida. (click to access full article)

 

I found these organic, heirloom beans at my farmers market last weekend. I’ve never even heard of Marrow or Arikara Yellow beans… I can’t wait to get to know these new varieties!

 

  • Less chemicals – There are lots of different ways farmers choose to use less chemicals and communicate about this when selling their produce (including USDA certified organic, organically grown, and no-spray). One of the things I love most about the farmers market and farm stores is the fact that I can talk directly with the farmer to understand their farming practices and personal beliefs. Many local farmers will invite you to visit their farm and learn all about this… all you have to do is ask!

 

Unprocessed, unpackaged vegetables straight from my backyard garden last week. Most of these went into our dinner salad moments after they were picked!

 

While you’re busy incorporating more local food into your diet, you’re probably naturally getting the benefits of unprocessed and unpackaged foods too. Both of these have big benefits to you!

 

Why unprocessed?

Additional resources (like water, energy, and associated fossil fuels for cooking), are required to turn fresh fruits, vegetables, and animal products into processed foods.

In addition to the environmental reasons to eat more unprocessed food, there are lots of potential health benefits. Diets including Clean Eating, Paleo, and Whole30 all encourage more fresh foods and less processed because the processing removes important fiber, vitamins, and nutrients while adding unhealthy ingredients like salt, sugar, and other complicated additives to preserve them or make them tastier. For additional reading, I recommend this article from Vox and this one from Harvard Health Publishing.

 

We purchased these bulk cherries from H&W Farms in Belding, MI last week – 120 pounds of washed and pitted cherries! My kids love to snack on frozen cherries, which means they’re choosing NOT to snack on processed foods. And I love using them in my cherry pies (vs canned cherry pie filling). We all get the nutrition and environmental benefits!

 

Why unpackaged?

Packaging is necessary when food is being transported long distances, but not so much within local food systems. I see packaging as waste that requires additional storage and effort to recycle/dispose. You’ll be surprised at the joy you might find in the extra space and time you have when you have less waste to manage in your life. There’s a whole lesson in the Eat More Local Food course designed to help you quickly and easily build your own waste free shopping kit. This kit is useful for any shopping you do, including your local grocery store.

 

I love shopping the farmers market with my reusable bags and coming home with only delicious, local, fresh food… NO garbage to store or spend time cleaning up!

 

If you’re interested in help finding more local food, please check out my Eat More Local Food course. It’s designed for you to work at your own pace through a series of lessons. Each lesson will take you less than 15 minutes and is designed to help you quickly and easily get more local food onto your plate, right now!

 

Why are you excited to eat more local food? Please add your thoughts, recommendations and questions in the comments!

 

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