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Coming…to a Farmers Market Near You

Is local food healthier?  Not always.  Is it cheaper?  Sometimes.  But produce from Colombia, South America can be as inexpensive as produce from Columbia County, NY.  In fact, Brooklyn (King’s County) was one of the largest growers of food in the United States 100 years ago and those New Yorkers had better access to fresh produce than some residents do now; eating locally grown food was the only option.  Now, activists and environmentalists alike are pushing the Slow Food Movement and re-discovering our culinary roots.

Many arguments can be made, but the most important reasons to eat locally are those that have a direct impact on your health and quality of life. Here are my top five reasons to eat locally grown food.

  1. Local food is fresher. Food may travel for days and remain in cold storage for weeks before getting to a supermarket.  The time from the farm to your table takes weeks off the shelf life.  Local food however, is often picked within 24- 48 hours of your purchase and the head of lettuce that would have lasted a few days instead lasts a couple weeks.
  2. Local food tastes better. A vine ripened tomato tastes richer than a tomato that has ripened in the back of a truck.
  3. Purchasing local food stimulates the local economy.  Stimulating the local economy is a mutually beneficial partnership that creates jobs and boosts business.  Investing your food dollars in the small farmers growing your produce will directly influence the foods’ quality and value.
  4. Local food growers choose greater variety. Farmers with smaller yields and fewer crops have more flexibility.  The foods grown don’t need to have a long shelf life or travel well so your chances of trying new varieties of produce are much greater.
  5. Local food can be safer.  Simply put, the fewer people who touch your food, the cleaner and safer it is.  Food from large, factory farms is more likely to be exposed to molds, bugs, and bacteria because it is handled more and sits for longer periods of time.  Eat locally to reduce your chance of contracting a food borne illness.

Local food increases food availability and accessibility to low income residents, can save you money, supports revision of the Farm Bill to subsidize small farmers instead of empty lots, and can improve soil fertility and stewardship.  But eating is enjoyable and the quality of produce always takes precedent.  Get to know your local, seasonal food and the people who grow it.  When you travel domestically or abroad, get to know theirs as well. You might just eat the best meal of your life.

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