From Farm to Fork: The Power of Eating Local

Farmer's Market Box and Veggies

Spring has sprung, and for me living in a place with seasons, it means it’s almost time for local produce. I love wandering my local farmers market, chatting with farmers and picking up whatever is in season at the moment. There’s lots of reasons to eat locally, from individual health benefits to supporting your local economy and the planet.

What is Eating Local?

I feel like the term “eating local” has become trendy. And it’s true the interest in eating local food has grown over the last couple decades. I grew up in California near where Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse, which was one of the earliest examples of a restaurant seeking out fresh, locally grown food to build a menu around. I saw how over time the idea of seasonal local produce gave rise to farm-to-table restaurants and the popularity of farmer’s markets. And I’m here for it. My kids were born while living in California, and every Sunday we would take them to the local farmer’s market where they would wander to vendors who handed them food to snack on, which essentially was their breakfast - pieces of cheese, mini apples, bell peppers, carrots, and smoked salmon were among the regular favorites.  And I credit so many of their varied eating habits with this ritual.

I’ve started to wonder, what does local mean? So here’s what i found. Local food is considered food that is produced from a short distance from where it is consumed. The American Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 states that:

(I) the locality or region in which the final product is marketed, so that the total distance that the product is transported is less than 400 miles from the origin of the product; or
(II) the State in which the product is produced.

So if you hear the term locally grown it may not necessarily be from your community. And different communities and farmer’s markets may have different definitions. But in general foods considered local foods are marketed through direct sales to consumers.

I would say for the most part the benefits are greater the closer the food is produced to you.

What are the Benefits of Eating Local?

You Taste Real Flavors

Freshly picked, in season produce is at peak flavor and nutrition. They have not had to travel and have not been sitting in storage. They get to ripen naturally and with that you get to taste them with their fullest flavors.


Support Farmers and Local Economy

Supporting your local farmers strengthens your community and local economy. Buying directly from farmers gives them a better return for their produce and gives them a fighting chance against a globalized marketplace. Also, money spent on local food goes into the hands of people who live locally, which they in turn can spend the money at other local businesses.


Supports the Environment

Food traveling around the country uses a lot of natural resources (fossil fuels), contributes to pollution, and creates trash with all the packaging. Did you know food on average travels 1500 miles by most estimates? Food from local farmers travels less and is generally produced in more sustainable ways, which can support our planet for generations to come. 


Enjoy the Season and Embrace Variety

Buying food from a local farmer’s market or being a part of a CSA will help you to enjoy produce in season (when it often tastes the best!) and you may get more exposure to different foods that you wouldn’t normally grab from the grocery store. This is one of my favorite parts about shopping from a farmers market with my kids. They ask questions and pick things that look good to them. It encourages us to prepare a wider variety of foods. 

How Can You Eat More Local?

There’s many ways to enjoy local foods and support your local farmers. Here’s some ideas:

  • Farms or CSA’s offer subscriptions for weekly pick-ups of fresh produce. Check out ones in your area.
  • Look for roadside farm stores to stop by.
  • Social media can be a great way to find and reach out to local farmers in your area.
  • If you have the space, you can try growing your own foods in a garden or planter too!
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