Most of us realize that the way we eat affects our health. If we eat badly then we can expect that we may have poor health too. By the same token, the way that we eat has a tremendous impact on the health of the planet.

We have become so accustomed to eating foods grown in faraway places that we do not give it a second thought. Most produce in the United States travels an average of 1,500 miles before it gets sold. Just think about it, the bananas you eat probably come from South America (though I really love bananas). The distance your food travels has serious effects on your health and the climate.

When foods are brought in from a distance it is impossible to identify the pesticides used and the route taken to grow and transport the food to local supermarkets. Foreign countries might not have the same controls and safety regulations that we do. Control over what you are putting into your body is limited.

Local farmers tend to use fewer chemicals than large factory farms. Fruits and vegetables have a longer time to ripen. The food will be fresher, often having been picked within 24 hours. This means the food will be more delicious and contain more nutritional value. The Ecologist just had a fascinating article about whether you should buy local or organic and local comes out on top!

Eating locally grown foods is just plain safer. The threat of bioterrorism is greatly reduced. Food that has to travel a long distance to get from farm to plate has a far greater risk of food contamination.

The transportation of food around the globe is not without impact. In fact it has an adverse effect on our climate and our air quality. It directly affects global warming and pollution. Buying locally grown produce and food items reduces the pollution going into our atmosphere and it reduces fuel consumption.

Eating foods grown locally give you a greater variety. A farmer who is not concerned with shipping foods, shelf life of the produce, or supermarket demands for ‘name brands’ is free to try small crops of different varieties. Local produce translates to eating foods when they are in season. This means you will be enjoying foods when they are the most abundant, at their nutritional peak, and the least expensive.

Purchasing food that has been locally grown keeps your dollars circulating within the community. Farmers on average get less than half the value on a dollar after transportation, processing, packaging, refrigeration, and marketing costs. Farmers who sell food to local customers receive the full retail value, a dollar for each food dollar spent. Additionally, eating locally encourages the use of local farmland for farming, thus giving farmers an economic reason to keep development in check while preserving open space.

By eating locally grown food you will help to reduce fuel consumption and global warming, strengthen the local economy, and protect the environment. You will also be eating fresher, tastier fruits and vegetables while safeguarding the health of your family. Check out Local Harvest to find where the local farms are in your neck of the woods!

 

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