Access to fresh, clean, local food has always been an interest of mine. Having grown up with a small orchard and an always proliﬁc garden in northeastern Pennsylvania undoubtedly instilled a love for the homegrown, but admittedly, local food hasnʼt been as much a part of my daily activities since I began living in New York City.
That all changed recently when I found out about Good Eggs and began working with them closely to launch their farm-to-fridge service in Brooklyn. It was founded two years ago in the Bay Area with a mission to grow and sustain local food systems worldwide. A noble feat, to say the least, particularly in the Age of Big Ag.
Of course, farmers’ markets and CSAs have been a great alternative to the supermarket — and seeing that the USDA reported a 3.6 percent increase in farmers' markets around the country totaling over $1 billion in sales, itʼs safe to say that the movement toward local foods is here to stay. So whether you have it delivered, or swing by your farmers’ market, give local food a try. Here are seven reasons why local is the more sensible way to eat:
1. It cuts down on food miles.
The Worldwatch Institute reports that our food on average travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles before it gets to our dinner plates. Thatʼs 25 percent farther than what it was just two decades ago! That means the average American meal, which normally includes some meat, grain, fruits and veggies, uses four to 17 times more petroleum if buying conventional versus local ingredients.
2. It provides more nutrients.
Itʼs a general rule of thumb that the longer it takes for your produce to get to your dinner plates, the less nutritious it will be.
Degradation of nutrients and vitamins happen as soon as fruits and veggies are picked, since harvesting separates them from their nutrient source, which is the plant or tree.
3. It tastes better.
When youʼre eating fruit and veggies in your own garden, of course they taste better, right? Damn right. A few summers ago, I had an opportunity to pick sweet corn in Long Island to deliver directly to local restaurants. It amazed me how delicious it was to eat the corn straight from the stalk (no boiling required!). As soon as you harvest, all these sugars start converting to starch. In fact, within 24 hours, a majority of the corn varieties, for instance, convert more than half their sugar content to starch, inevitably changing the ﬂavor.
4. It preserves genetic diversity.
In a recent TEDx talk on seeds, Simran Sethi mentioned a shocking statistic: 95 percent of the worldʼs calories only comes from a measly 30 plant species! Preserving genetic diversity is not only important to help crops be more resilient against disease and changing environmental conditions, but also because it’s far more interesting! If you’ve ever seen Romanesco broccoli, you’ll know what I mean. At a recent Good Eggs taste testing, attendees had the opportunity to taste more than a dozen varieties of apples from Fishkill Farms including Macoun, Mutsu and Stayman Winesap — varieties you’d rarely ever find in the supermarket.
5. It's environmentally sound.
The small, independent farmers growing local food are the ones who are often most invested in the health of their land and their community. They use sustainable farming practices, care for their soil and will gladly tell you about how their food was grown. The next time you’re at the farmers’ market, ask about your produce. Chances are, you’ll like what you hear.
6. It supports local businesses.
Selling wholesale in conventional markets can really cut out the farmer and the people picking the food. In a recent conversation with Sanjay Rawal, director of the film Food Chains, Sanjay spoke about how supermarket chains squeeze out farmers, farm families, and the people picking our food. Whenever you can go more direct-to-the-source, it allows farmers the ability to retain the fuller price for their food.
7. It builds strong communities.
Throughout history, humans have gathered around food, building strong familial and social bonds. The market has long been one of the most social places in a community, and it’s now replaced fluorescent-lit supermarket shelves stocked with boxes from faceless mega-corporations. When you can meet your farmer and the people making your food, stronger communities begin to develop.