A while ago I wrote a small article about local food and its benefits, which was published here. I want to share it with you because I have a passion for it. Everyone could benefit from eating a little more of what's available to them at any given moment, like today.
For food to be local, it means that it is near you. It may be in your neighborhood, town, city, or state. Some may even consider food sources a few states away (in your region) or anywhere in the US as local. Regardless of your definition, food that is grown closer to you is better; here are a few reasons why.
Local food saves energy.
For people, machines, the earth. Food that is grown and harvested in your immediate community has a significant less amount of miles to travel to get to your plate. Global food travels far, using high amounts of energy, fossil fuels, and creates high environmental damage. Local food does not.
Local food is more diverse.
Because local food does not have to travel so far, the food does not have to be harvested prematurely in order to be ripe and presentable when eaten - they can be (and usually are) picked mere hours before you handle them at the peak of ripeness. Because of this, the varieties grown do not have to meet certain hardiness requirements. For example, certain types of tomatoes are so delicate that they cannot travel very long before they are bruised and unfit for selling. The types grown for their ability to ship, store and sell well come in only a few varieties. I'm willing to bet you know each of them by name; by contrast, the varieties you may find at a local farm have names you may never have been able to dream up.
Local food tastes better.
Because your food is picked at its height of season (probably a day or even hours before you buy it), it is perfectly ripe and at the height of flavor. The varieties that are grown to ship well and last a long time after harvest can't compare with their perfectly ripe local counterpart, organic vs conventional aside. Certain varieties that are grown locally cannot be found in any grocer or market, unless it's sold as a seed for you to grow yourself.
Local food makes you a healthy penny pinching hippie. (yes, that's a good thing)
Local food is allocated by the seasons. Eating this way helps us to notice subtle changes in the world around us, moreso than when we shop in places alight with fluorescence instead of sunshine. Eating foods at their seasons peak also assures that there is an abundance, which makes it more affordable. And seasonal and local food is fresher than it's global counterpart which makes it in fact, more nutritious.
Local food makes your community a better place to live.
When you purchase local products, especially local food, you are supporting your immediate community. You are helping local farmers and food producers stay in business and support their families and workers. Your money stays where you live and builds a strong local economy rather than being spread out to multiple people and far off places. This makes your community more sustainable and builds a dynamic economy where variety and quality is valued.
Local food has a face.
When you eat locally, chances are you have the ability to physically visit and see where and who your food is coming from if you care to make the trip. Rather than being separated from your food producers through a long line of processors, manufacturers, shippers and retailers, you can talk to the people growing and loving your food, build a relationship with them, even lend a hand in the process. And again, you will be making your community a better place because you're an active part in it.
disclaimer: I don't eat an exclusively local diet - for the life of me I cannot find a producer in Utah for mango.. But when we can, and most certainly when in season, we love supporting local farmers, local artisans, local businesses. It's an action of betterment, for more than just our eating experiences.