The Benefits of Eating Local (and how to do it!)

by | Dec 11, 2018 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

Do you ever think about where your food comes from? American farmer and author, Joel Salatin says, “The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food?”  Where indeed? Well, it was grown on family farms and kitchen gardens, most food was cooked and preserved at home, and people shared with their neighbors!  Technology and efficient transportation has impacted the food system in huge ways, and these days the apples you find at Target are likely grown hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away.  Factory farming has lead to more and more family farms dissolving, and this means commodities travel further now than they did 50 years ago, and are often turned into animal feed or processed foods that keep well for long periods of time.  

So, while it’s convenient to be able to get any food whenever you want, shipping food can be hard on the environment, seasonal migrant workers are often not treated well, and it can also have a negative impact on your local economy.  If you live in Michigan but your local stores stock apples from New Zealand, well, that doesn’t help the local apple growers much! Cue the Eat Local Movement.

  1. Grow your own!  Find {or start!} a community garden in your area or fill a few pots on the windowsill with dirt, plant some seeds, and feel your power to take care of yourself and start to grow as your plants do. Many urban communities these days allow backyard chickens as well – nothing like some homegrown eggs!
  2. Join a CSA (what’s involved with community supported agriculture?) and receive a box of fresh produce from a local farm every few weeks during the growing season.  This model requires paying for a share upfront as most of a farm’s expenses come early in the season, but many farms also have work share options or payment plans available if the upfront cost is a barrier – there are always weeds to pull.
  3. Preserve! When fresh produce is in season, [whether you grow it, get it at a farmers market, a u-pick operation, or from a farm share]  a great way to ensure you have access to healthy food all year is to freeze, dry, or can the abundance.  There’s nothing like tasting a bit of summer in January via the fruits that you picked and froze yourself the previous July. Get some friends together and give it a shot!
  4. Network.  Get to know your farmers. Ask at the local community center, library, or churches where to find pop up farmers markets or humanely raised beef or chicken.  Gather your neighbors together and request the local convenience store or gas station stock more fresh, local produce. Advocate for the changes that need to happen to ensure you and your family get what you need. Get comfortable (or embrace your discomfort!) with the art of asking and working together with your community.
  5. Get creative with what you have available.  Leanne Brown wrote an amazing cookbook full of tips and recipes on how to eat well on four dollars a day, using mostly items that can be found at a food shelf – but even if budgeting isn’t an issue, cooking is one of your best tools when it comes to eating well using locally sourced foods – it can take more time upfront, absolutely, but in the long run, getting acquainted with your stove top and oven will not let you down.

How might you incorporate more locally sourced foods into your life?