10 Reasons to Buy Local Food
Reprinted from With an Ear to the Ground by Vern Grubinger, published by Northeast Region SARE, 2004.
- Local food tastes better. The crops are picked at their peak, and farmstead products like cheese are hand crafted for the best flavor. Food imported from far away is older, has traveled on trucks or planes, and has sat in warehouses before it finally gets to you.
- Local produce is better for you. The shorter the time between the farm and your table, the less likely it is that nutrients will be lost from fresh food.
- Local food preserves genetic diversity. In the modern agricultural system, plant varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen uniformly, withstand harvesting, survive packing and last on the shelf, so there is limited genetic diversity in large-scale production. Smaller local farms, in constrast, often grow many different varieties to provide a long harvest season, in an array of colors and flavors.
- Local food is safe. There's a unique kind of assurance that comes from looking a farmer in the eye at farmers market or driving by the fields where your food comes from. Local farmers aren`t anonymous and they take their responsibility to the consumer seriously.
- Local food supports local families. Wholesale prices that farmers get for their products are low, often near the cost of production. Local farmers who sell directly to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food, which helps farm families stay on the land.
- Local food builds community. When you buy direct from a farmer, you are engaging in a time-honored connection between eater and grower. Knowing the farmer gives you insight into the seasons, the land, and your food. It gives you access to a place where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture.
- Local food preserves open space. When farmers get paid more for their products by marketing locally, they are less likely to sell their farmland for development. When you buy locally grown food, you are doing something proactive to preserve our agricultural landscape.
- Local food keeps taxes down. According to several studies, farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas most other kinds of development contribute less in taxes than the cost of the services they require.
- Local food benefits the environment and wildlife. Well-managed farms conserve fertile soil and clean water in our communities. The farm environment is a patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds, and buildings that provide habitat for wildlife.
- Local food is an investment in the future. By supporting local farmers today, you are helping ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow.
Greenmarket is good for farms
- Preserving Farmland. Greenmarket keeps local family farms in business. Over the past 50 years, close to a million acres of local farmland have been buried under cement and asphalt. The Hudson Valley is among the most threatened farm regions in the country. Together the farms that attend Greenmarket preserve over 30,000 acres of regional open space.
- Strengthening Rural Economies. 80% of Greenmarket farmers report they would be out of business if it weren't for Greenmarket.
Greenmarket is good for city neighborhoods
- Food Security. Nearby farms ensure food access in times of blackouts, fuel shortage, or other crises. Greenmarket works with city agencies to bring healthy eating to neighborhoods that lack fresh foods. Greenmarket participates in the NYS Farmers Market Nutrition Program, providing food to families at nutritional risk. In 2005, almost 250,000 such households redeemed vouchers worth $3 million for locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables at NYC farmers markets. Many markets have the technology to accept EBT food stamps and we are working hard to expand that access. Unsold produce feeds the hungry. In 2005, Greenmarket donated over 300,000 pounds of food to City Harvest.
- Improving Neighborhood Economies. Greenmarket brings money to neighborhood businesses. In peak season, the Union Square Greenmarket draws 60,000 shoppers a day; in a recent survey, 82% cited Greenmarket as the primary reason for their visit, and 60% spent up to $50 in area businesses.
- Creating Community & Urban Renewal. Greenmarket raises quality of life, brings neighbors together and revives public spaces. Markets have revitalized neighborhoods citywide. The dramatic transformation of Union Square from crime-ridden to bustling is but one example.
- Education. Each year thousands of school children and other groups visit Greenmarket to taste fresh food and meet the people who grow it.
Greenmarket is good for our environment
- Sustainability. Greenmarket farmers use sustainable practices. Some are certified organic. All are personally invested in the health of the water, soil, and air quality on the farms where they live and raise families.
- Clean Water. NYC's water comes from reservoirs northwest of the city where sustainable farms and open space help protect our water supply. More than a dozen Greenmarket farms are in NYC's Watershed.
- Energy Conservation. Transporting food long distances uses tremendous energy: it takes 435 fossil-fuel calories to fly a 5 calorie strawberry from California to New York. Fossil fuels contribute to global warming, acid rain and smog. Local foods travel short distances and use dramatically less energy.
- Biodiversity. Greenmarket farmers grow thousands of varieties of fruits and vegetables, including over 100 varieties each of apples and tomatoes. In contrast, industrial agribusiness cultivates high-yield hybrids bred for fast maturation and thick skins to withstand mechanical harvest and transport. Meanwhile heirloom produce and heritage-breed livestock are vanishing from fields and plates, drastically shrinking the gene pool for those foods; the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that more than 75% of agricultural genetic diversity was lost in the 20th century. Small, biodiverse farms preserve our food heritage.
Additional information about buying local
- The Pleasures of Eating by Wendell Berry
- Big Apple Circus by Dan Barber
- Food Routes Network communications tools, technical support, networking and information resources to organizations nationwide that are working to rebuild local, community-based food systems.
- The True Cost of Food a 15-minute animated movie about the current food system, produced by the Sierra Club's Sustainable Consumption Committee.
- The Meatrix short animated movies about the realities of factory-farmed meat, produced by Sustainable Table.
- Food Chain Radio a weekly news talk radio show about food, farmers and markets.
- The Center for Ecoliteracyinformation for sustainable living and supports a grantmaking program for educational organizations and school communities.