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The Lowdown on Local

September 27, 2009

Austin and I love to eat.

So much so we’ve decided that food is the foundation of our entire relationship.  We enjoy everything from veal pancreas to chicken nuggets, from his mom’s triple layer carrot cake to my mom’s red bean pastries.  We plan dinner while eating breakfast, have a “restaurants to eat at” list, and always end a workout with, “You know what sounds good?”

Yet despite our gastronomic infatuation, neither of us really eat with the environment in mind.  Yes, this self-proclaimed “green girl” is also at fault.  (I have been known to call McDonald’s french fries and ice cream “the best thing I’ve ever eaten.”)

Therefore, this Saturday Austin and I are going to the Lawrence Farmer’s Market to not only do a little culinary exploration, but also to better understand what eating locally means.

Image source: treehugger.com

Image source: treehugger.com

In the meantime…

Eating locally does not mean eating at the Applebee’s down the street: To eat locally is to eat food that is harvested within the local area, which most people consider to be within a 100 mile radius.  There are many ways to buy and eat local foods: farmers markets, CSAs, and restaurants that include seasonal, local foods in their menu.  To find a market, farm, or CSA by you, click here.

CSA…is that like the CIA? No.  CSA stands for “community supported agriculture” and is a way for consumers to support local farmers by buying a certain number of “shares.”  For each share you buy, you receive a certain amount of seasonal produce or other goods.  Some farmers also offer visits to their farm.  This relationship provides farmers some economic stability while giving consumers the peace of mind of knowing where their food comes from and how it was produced.

Would you like some fossil fuels with that salad? One main reason that people eat locally is to minimize their “food miles.”  Most, if not all, industrial foods travel an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate.  All that travel creates three things: CO2 emissions (transport), paper and plastic waste (packaging), and air and water pollution (processing).  Why the packaging and processing?  Well, with such a long trip ahead of them, these foods require preservatives, refrigeration, boxes and bags to ensure that they arrive at your local grocery store in prime buying condition.

Eating local helps make the money go ’round: At a time when the overall economy is in such a fragile state, how to spend your money wisely is on everyone’s mind. When you help support local farmers by buying their products, you’re actually helping your local economy as well.  The money you spend on local farmers and businesses is more likely to be reinvested in the community, where it helps boost local economics.

So if I eat locally I can save the planet? As is with all environmental issues, this one has its complexities.  Eating locally doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you are eating sustainably.  Though buying food from local farmers can give you a better understanding of the sources of your food, the food could still be grown with pesticides, antibiotics, or under factory farm conditions.    Even if food miles are diminished, these factors could still create a significant environmental impact.  For more information, click here for an article at Mother Jones about controversies surrounding local and organic foods.

Then why should we eat local foods? Though eating locally doesn’t always equal sustainable food, it can be a step in that direction.  Starting up a conversation with local farmers can help you better understand how their food is produced and transported so that you can make more environmentally conscious decisions when it comes to all the yummy things you eat.

Do you eat locally?  Why or why not?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 2, 2009 10:39 am

    You might find this interesting. LINK: Where Your Food Comes From

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