Why Eat Locally-Grown Food?

The benefits of locally grown food: Supports local farms, Boosts local economy, Less travel, Less waste, More freshness, New and better flavors, Good for the soil, Attracts tourists, Preserves open space, Builds more connected communities…



3/4/20214 min read

Why Eat Locally-Grown Food?

The benefits of locally grown food:

Financial: Money stays within the local economy.  More money goes directly to the farmer, instead of to things like marketing and distribution.

Transportation: Eating more local food reduces CO2 emissions.  In the U.S., for example, the average distance a meal travels from the farm to the dinner plate is over 1,500 miles.  Produce must be picked while still unripe and then gassed with ethylene to “ripen” it after transport.  Or the food is highly processed in factories using preservatives, irradiation, and other means to keep it stable for transport.

Freshness: Local food is harvested when ripe and thus fresher and full of flavor.

Local food helps preserve green space.  When local farmers are well compensated for their products, they are less likely to sell their land to developers.  Likewise, with growing consumer demand, young farmers are increasingly likely to enter the marketplace by developing unused space, such as empty lots, into thriving urban gardens — many of which are grown organically.

Small, local farms offer more variety.  Our industrial agricultural system uses a mono-crop system.  But smaller, organic farmers may grow a variety of organic and heirloom produce, which you might not find at the supermarket

Local food creates community and connection.  In our increasingly online and isolated world, loneliness is a growing problem.  Getting to know your local growers and shopping or volunteering at a local farmer’s market, co-op, or community-supported agriculture (CSA) counteracts this trend.  And doing so can help you build meaningful human connections.

Small local farmers often use organic methods but sometimes cannot afford to become certified organic.

Are you a locavore?

Locavores are people who try to choose locally grown or locally produced food that is in season.  There are many definitions of “local food,” but the concept is based primarily on distance.  Many people like to purchase food locally by starting within their own community, then moving out to the state, region, country, and so on.  This type of food consumption is the basis for the popular 100-mile diet, which promotes buying and eating food that’s grown, manufactured, or produced within a 100-mile radius of the consumer’s home.

Why eat “local”?

These are just a few of the numerous potential benefits of eating local:

It’s good for the environment. Local food doesn’t have to travel as far to arrive on your plate, so it helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to improving our carbon footprint.

It benefits the local economy, including supporting local farmers and other producers.

It encourages sustainable agriculture and facilitates tracking the supply chain back to the point of origin to evaluate ecological practices.

It may have a higher nutrient value, as food that is grown and harvested locally is usually given more time to ripen. This does not, however, automatically mean that local food is necessarily more nutritious, as other factors come into play.

It helps you develop a connection with food.

You become more aware of what you’re putting in your body.

You vote every time you shop, and with knowledge comes the ability to support foods and growers you believe in.

Produce such as broccoli, green beans, kale, red peppers, tomatoes, apricots, and peaches are susceptible to nutrient loss when harvested and transported from longer distances, while those that are heartier such as apples, oranges, grapefruit, and carrots keep their nutrients even if they travel long distances.

Local food can be better for your health for a few reasons. To begin with, local foods often retain more nutrients. Local produce is allowed to ripen naturally, while food that travels long distances is often picked before it’s ripe.  And food picked fresh and in season doesn’t have far to travel before being sold.

Choosing fruits and vegetables grown in season may also be healthier. When researchers at Montclair State University compared the vitamin C content of broccoli grown in season with broccoli imported out of season, they found the latter had only half the vitamin C.

Another study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the levels of health-promoting anthocyanin pigments more than quadrupled as blackberries became fully ripe.

In addition, locally grown produce may be safer. When they are imported and out of season, fruits like tomatoes, bananas, and pears are often picked unripe.  And then, they are artificially “ripened” with ethylene gas.

Also, foods from local growers may contain less (or no) pesticides.  Farmers have to pay an extra fee to become certified organic.  Some small-scale farmers use organic methods, but aren’t certified because they simply aren’t big enough to be able to afford the certification fees.  Even if they aren’t organic, small farmers tend to use fewer chemicals than large, industrialized farms.

To Summarize:

Supports local farms: Buying local food keeps local farms healthy and creates local jobs at farms and in local food processing and distribution systems.

Boosts local economy: Food dollars spent at local farms and food producers stay in the local economy, creating more jobs at other local businesses.

Less travel: Local food travels much less distance to the market than typical fresh or processed grocery store foods, therefore using less fuel and generating fewer greenhouse gases.

Less waste: Because of the shorter distribution chains for local foods, less food is wasted in distribution, warehousing, and merchandising.

More freshness: Local food is fresher, healthier, and tastes better, because it spends less time in transit from farm to plate, and therefore, loses fewer nutrients and incurs less spoilage.

New and better flavors: When you commit to buy more local food, you’ll discover interesting new foods, tasty new ways to prepare food, and a new appreciation of the pleasure of each season’s foods.

Good for the soil: Local food encourages diversification of local agriculture, which reduces the reliance on monoculture—single crops grown over a wide area to the detriment of soils.

Attracts tourists: Local foods promote agritourism—farmers’ markets and opportunities to visit farms and local food producers help draw tourists to a region.

Preserves open space: Buying local food helps local farms survive and thrive, keeping land from being redeveloped into suburban sprawl.

Builds more connected communities: Local foods create more vibrant communities by connecting people with the farmers and food producers who bring them healthy local foods. As customers of CSAs and farmers’ markets have discovered, they are great places to meet and connect with friends as well as farmers.