You’ve probably heard a million hipsters or moms or whoever tell you that you should buy locally grown. And, you’ve also probably seen local farmers markets sprout up around Baltimore and our surrounding areas. But why should we buy local? What’s the benefit to you, our community and the environment? I’ve put together a few reasons why I’m trying to do it more…
Seasonal, local food tastes better!
One of the first steps in figuring out what’s best to buy locally right now is to educate yourself on what’s in season in our area now. Think about it…While you can buy strawberries in December, they’re PROBABLY not great. Why? Because they are 1) not in season in our area and therefore 2) is flown from far away and probably have been modified to be stronger for that long trip… (good thing they’re coming into season now – YUM!)
Finding out what’s in season is KEY. There are tons of great resources to help you find out what’s in season. These charts from Chasing Delicious are great! You can also typically find a more local calendar from your state (here’s Maryland’s seasonal list)!
Epicurious also has an incredible seasonal ingredient map that you can use to pinpoint month and location for what’s in season!
Farmer’s markets are always a great option because typically the farmers who grow the food are actually the one selling to you! They won’t have what’s not in seasons because…well, it isn’t growing! It’s also becoming easier to determine where your food comes from when you’re at the grocery store (at least at some). Our local Whole Foods and Harris Teeter, for example, have implemented signage to help you figure out if the produce is local or not. Whole Foods also recently adopted markings to share what’s responsibly grown, which helps you take another step in the right direction.
Looking for a local farmers market? These are some of our favorites:
- Baltimore Farmer’s Market & Bazzaar
- Pratt Street Farmer’s Market
- Fell’s Point Farmer’s Market
- Looking for more? Check out this great market map from the Baltimore Sun!
It’s better for you!
When did we start caring more about cost and less about what goes into our bodies?!? Seriously, think about how much we eat…how essential is it to us living…It is quite literally something we need to survive! Not only have we strayed to nothing foods because they’re cheap (non-produce that doesn’t have any nutrients to begin with), but we’ve also accepted that everything is available all the time. Sure you CAN get a tomato in December, but it probably comes from California. Even if it’s responsibly grown there, it’s been bred to travel to you, giving it more oomph to fight bruising/damage than to supply your daily fuel needs. In today’s modern system, plants are chosen for their ability to ripen uniformly, survive packing and last a long time on the shelf…none of those things help your body. Plus, once harvested, produce quickly loses nutrients. Since local foods are sold right after they are picked, they retains more nutrients! And, if you pack make food and save for later, you can have those nutrients all year long!
It’s an investment!
If you can find the local foods, the next argument to overcome is that it costs more (sometimes). These foods aren’t the cheapest, which is probably the main reason society has moved away from purchasing them. BUT, the cool thing is that when you spend this money, it’s going to the farmers. To the people who work day in and day out to grow this nutritious, delicious food for you. And this money is going toward a better you. Again, think about the nutrients. This makes me think of one of my favorite quotes: “Your body isn’t an apartment that you’re renting, it’s the house you’re always going to live in.” Buying local foods is an investment not only in your community, for the farms and people working in our area, but also for your body!
You can have your local all the time!
So what if you want something that’s out of season? I know enough to be sure it would take INCREDIBLE effort for one to only eat locally.* The cool thing about buying some foods is that you can make them into other foods…take tomatoes for example. You can purchase tomatoes in late summer months, when they are at their tastiest, then make them into stews or pasta sauces. Freeze these and you have “fresh”, local foods available all the time! Plant an herb garden then bring what you can inside for a kitchen garden. This is not only delicious, but it saves you MONEY. In 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average American spent nearly $6,500 a year on food! More than half of that is spent in the grocery store, often on prepared, packaged products! It might not cut your spending in half, but if you work consistently to make some of your own food from fresh, affordable ingredients, it may help!
*If you’re interested in hearing about a family’s journey trying that though, check out Animal, Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s not only interesting to hear more about her families journey (from her, her husband’s and her daughter’s perspectives) but she writes beautifully. You don’t even know you’re enjoying reading about asparagus. haha
It helps the Earth!
Remember this little planet thing we all live on? I don’t want to get on my conservation soap box or anything but anything we can do to help NOT destroy this place we live, is great for me. Local food promotes energy conservation. The average distance our food travels is 1,500 miles, mostly by air and truck. By buying locally, you conserve the energy that’s used for transport! These foods also typically use less packaging, saving us from more unnecessary plastic, styrofoam, etc.! Plus, the farms that grow these foods are typically great for the environment and wildlife! Well-managed farms conserve fertile soil and protect water sources, all while providing habitats for wildlife in our communities!
Like I’ve said, this isn’t just about me. This is about my family (right now, just me and Tom haha). We try to make healthy choices for our bodies, but that doesn’t always mean they are wiser choices. We want to be able to provide our bodies healthy, nutritious foods, while supporting our local farmers and economy.
Hopefully, there are enough of us that feel this way that the tides are shifting and more locally grown (and labeled) foods become available!
Looking for recipes for your seasonal, local foods? Cooking Light has a great section on their website dedicated to seasonal recipes!