Farm to table- it’s a concept that has been gaining popularity over the last several years. This trend continues to grow as consumers become more knowledgeable about the source of their food and the way in which it was produced. Have you ever thought about what it really means to “eat local” and why you should join this popular movement?
Below are a few reasons to ditch your big box grocery store and start purchasing from your local farmer.
Locally grown food has premium flavor and a heightened nutrient profile
When you purchase local produce, it is often picked at the peak of ripeness, which ensures that it has the highest nutritional value. Think about it- an apple from Brazil or an avocado from California need to be harvested early enough to ensure that the fruit does not rot before reaching the grocery store shelves, and ultimately, your home. The earlier the fruit is picked, the less time available for it to receive nutrients from the soil, and the less nutritious it will be when you consume it. When you purchase locally, many of the fruits and veggies are picked less than 24 hours before they are sold, leading to a more ideal nutrient profile.
Eating local ensures dietary diversity
If farmers can only grow what the weather will allow, and you can only purchase and eat what the farmers grow, you are guaranteed a diet rich in variety and nutrients. Just because you can purchase broccoli all year long at the grocery store doesn’t mean you should! All fruits and vegetables have their own unique flavor and nutritional value, and by limiting yourself to the same main stream fruits and vegetables you’ve probably been purchasing all year, you’re limiting both your pallet and your health.
When you purchase produce that is in season, it challenges you to become more creative with how you prepare meals. Additionally, some of the most unique produce is found at your local farmer’s market and many of these varieties cannot be found in your grocer’s produce isle.
Eating local means supporting the economy
Did you know that almost 14% – almost 17.4 million households in the United States were food insecure in 2014? When you purchase local, you’re providing jobs and income to farmers, who will then put that money back into the economy when they purchase locally. Some sources claim that this leads to a multiplier effect of up to three times the initial purchase amount. Also, many farmer’s markets, such as the Abita Springs Farmer’s Market, support low income families (enrolled in SNAP or WIC) to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables through Veggie Bucks, Market Match, or “Buy One Get One Local” programs.
The standard practice of commercialized food production has led to many foodborne illness outbreaks. This is due to contamination risks associated with mass production. By reducing the number of steps from planting to market, and by producing at a smaller scale, the potential for foodborne illness is greatly reduced.
Purchasing from a local farmer gives you an important benefit that you can’t get at the grocery store- you can talk to the person growing your food! You can ask them about their growing methods, if they use responsible and sustainable practices as well as when they harvested their latest crops.
The benefits of eating local apply to more than just produce. It is equally important to source your dairy, meat, eggs, and seafood from a local producer as well. Check out the Abita Fresh online farmers market platform for a wide variety of local food products.