“Brown eggs are local eggs and local eggs are fresh!” I grew up in Massachusetts and I remember this commercial from the 70’s, with it’s addictively catchy jingle. A quick Google of the interwebs tells me that plenty of other people remember this jingle, and plenty of them, like me, for years bought nothing but brown eggs. (Of course, we now know, also due to the magic of the Internet, that brown eggs aren’t any fresher; brown eggs come from brown hens, while white eggs come from white hens, but the Rhode Island Red, a “brown” hen, is prevalent in New England.) Who knew a catchy jingle could impact our behavior for so long? It must be an advertising legend. But I digress.
Why eat local? The reasons are so numerous and so obvious, that perhaps the better question should be why wouldn’t we eat local? After all, if you can remember the not-so-very-long-ago 1970’s, you’ll remember that everyone ate locally-produced, seasonal food, pretty much all of the time. Milk was delivered in bottles, every day, from the “milk man” and was sourced from local farms. Corn on the cob and tomatoes meant summer; B&M baked beans, black bread and grilled linguica meant winter. An orange at the top of your Christmas stocking was a real treat; I can remember my Mom telling us that it came all the way from Florida. People seem to think that eating locally is a quaint, nostalgia-fueled exercise, like we’re all pining to be Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie, when in reality, only 30 years ago eating locally was the norm. It’s been only a single generation in which our food system has become so dysfunctional that it’s easier to find a New Zealand Granny Smith apple in the market in October than the Empire apple grown by your neighbor 5 miles away.
Many people have written eloquent, heartfelt and thoroughly researched essays on the multitude of good reasons to eat locally grown & produced food: Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver and Gary Paul Nabahn to name just a few. I offer just a short list of the reasons that I choose to eat locally.Taste
Yes, you heard it here, the #1 reason to eat locally: local food tastes better. It’s not only fresher (many times you can get it on the day of harvest) than food that has traveled the average 1500 miles to your plate, but it’s also not being raised to travel 1500 miles to your plate. That means you can find different varieties, ones that fell out of favor because they don’t travel well, or lack uniformity, or have a longer growing season. Tomatoes, lettuce, peaches, raspberries, cucumbers, potatoes, even onions & garlic: you’ll be amazed at how much difference freshness and variety can make. Taste. Try it and see.
Mine and my neighbor’s. Yes, buying local food can be more expensive than shopping at the supermarket, especially for meats & cheeses. But buying local blueberries in season and freezing for use out of season is much less expensive than paying $6.99 for a half-pint of Chilean blueberries in February. Additionally, the money I spend stays here, in the Hudson Valley. I like the fact that I know Betsey, my vegetable farmer, and Jen & Mike, my pig farmers, Pat, who raises my chickens, and Don, my “flour guy.” I like even more that I get to give my money to these people that I like: I help to keep them in business and they help to keep me in delicious, healthy food. The money that I pay to them in turn gets funneled back into my neighborhood, to my local schools and shops and industries. Pay it forward, as they say, just not too far forward.
The environmental benefits of not shipping all of our food 1500 miles every day are obvious: 1500 miles less of CO2-spewing transportation, each and every day. But there are many other environmental benefits to a local diet that are somewhat less obvious. Local eating by it’s nature requires many small, diversified farms. One 10,000 acre farm growing lettuce outside of Albany isn’t going to last very long without a huge transportation network to support it. But take those 10,000 acres and turn them into 25 small family farms, raising everything from apples to zucchini, chickens to goats, mushrooms to tilapia, and you instantly reap environmental benefits. Diversity in and of itself is an ecological benefit: monoculture is associated with pesticide-resistant super bugs, erosion & depletion of soil, and increasing fertilizer needs with each harvest season. Many small farmers, if they are not certified organic, practice sustainable farming practices. It just make good sense: less money out of pocket for inputs (fertilizer, pesticides) and higher productivity and healthier soil through sustainable farming.
Yes, I know the names and faces of the people who grow my food. I also get to know the people who care about local food the way I do: shop owners, restaurateurs neighbors. You see them, week in and week out, at the farmer’s market, at the CSA pick-up, at the farm. You trade recipes or talk about how fabulous the Sun Gold cherry tomatoes were last week. You discuss the best local cheddar or how to make butter from heavy cream. Community.
Increasing numbers of studies have shown that an organic diet is healthier than a conventional one; these results can be extrapolated to locally, sustainably grown food. In my opinion it seems that fresh, local food, grown without synthetic inputs, is obviously better for you, but this can be notoriously tricky to prove. (Damn those pesky scientists!)
“But what about coffee?” they say to me. “And chocolate? And tequila?!” True locavores may scoff, but I say life is too short without chocolate, and good coffee is one of life’s true luxuries. (We won’t even discuss life without tequila. Shudder.) Ditto French champagne and fresh-squeezed orange juice. I enjoy all of these things, in moderation. As a conscious, mostly-local eater, however, I try to remember that each of these items is is luxury. It’s easy to think of vintage Krug as a luxury; given the typical price tag of a bottle, very few of us are enjoying this every day. But orange juice, bananas, cashews, pineapples, avocados: if you live in the Northeast, each of these things was shipped here from very far away. A local-conscious diet reminds you to treasure the luxuries and enjoy them as such, but for everyday eating, the best food, for you, your community and the Earth, is the food raised next door.
This is truly inspirational and I wish if everyone could take a leaf out of you book and live a locavore life, our world would be a much heathier place.
The Urban Potager.
This really is an amazing blog. I am about to try your blueberry cream cheese recipe with GF zucchini cupcakes.
Pingback: Cupboard Tart « Little Miss Cruciferous
I like your blog post. I wish that there would be a way for everyone to eat locally. It is just hard for me to say “eat local” when there are people that are starving in this world.
I am also from Massachusetts and I remember my father driving to Bob’s Turkey Farm to pick up the bird and Goves Farm having THE freshest tomatoes and cor on the cob. We were very Blessed to have 10 apple trees in our yard. When we wanted a snack we just picked one off the tree. We would help our Mother churn the apples in the grinder to make homemade apple sauce and apple jelly. All of this was canned and placed in the basement for the winter.Our mother also made her own pie crust, a tradition seh passed down to my daughter and I can guarantee her fresh homemade apple pie was THE best in town. Thanks for stirring up these wonderful memories. I plan on being more conscious of my food choices now.And I WILL be visiting Goves this year 🙂
Sorry for the spelling mistakes. There is no edit button . Alas~ I am perfectly imperfect.
This is really true, thank you for inspiring me to write a post about local options here in Cape Town, South Africa.
Truly inspiring. I am happy to have come across your blog. Nice writing.
I Just stumbled upon your blog. Great concept, I will be back!
I stumbled upon your blog a few weeks ago and I’m looking forward to following you this next year! I am a big fan of eating local though I can so easily disconnect from the source of my food (i.e. purchasing food from the local market). I love to shop at the farmer’s markets and in the summer months I shop at some local farms.
Have you seen the documentary Food Fight? It is a really interesting look at the food industry and makes me want to get to know my farmers.
Fantastic post- I can’t wait to read more from you! Feel free to check out my blog any time, we seem to share the same vision!
This is so great – local & seasonal are the key to health, for humanity & all life on the planet. Thanks so much for writing this – people need to read this kind of thing & be inspired! Check out my blog (http://brightyoungfood.com/)… feel like we’re on the same wavelength
Just so beautifully expressed. ‘Local’ and ‘strictly’ seasonal are two of the things I love most about living in Italy, even though the big bad monsters from the multinational supermarket chains seem intent on destroying this here too. I look forward to following you.
I love the idea behind your blog. Thanks for inspiring us to go local!
I love both your blog and the purpose behind it! I am constantly striving to eat seasonally and locally- but in Montana, that seems to be a bit harder to do than one might think. (It might be something to do with the fact that it snows practically every month out of the year here…) You’ve inspired me to seek out local farmers in my area for items beyond the usual vegetables available at the farmer’s market. A state with more cows than people *has* to have local milk and other dairy products available…right? I look forward to following your blog – it’s so colorful! Thank you!
I just stumbled across your blog. I really like it. I prefer local, but it’s not as accessible in the winter months as I’d like. I’m going to start looking a little harder.
I couldn’t agree with you more. Eating local has a boatload (pun intended) of benefits over importing our food from overseas.
That’s really awesome. I like your idea of my money stays in the community. I’m much the same way.
Living in Vancouver, BC. We do have our local butchers, fish mongers, and grocers. However, we do
have a lot of Supermarkets as well. I’m trying to change that with my a website: mealshelf.com to try
to more deeply connect our local businesses with our local consumers. You’re right that local is more
expensive, but it is your neighbours that will care about what you eat, because you’re their livelihood.
I appreciate that you addressed that these are your reasons and not just from written essays and articles by other people. Even the word “local” itself is a controversial term. Great photos and writing! 🙂
Love this and could not agree more! So nice to find another New York blogger, I just made my first batch of New York apple butter from local farms in the area and local honey too!