Your dollars make a difference
New to local foods? Here a few persuasive reasons to support local farmers and buy foods from your region.
- Buying locally grown and raised foods helps farm families earn a living and stay on the land. Nationally, farmers and ranchers receive on average only fifteen cents of every food dollar consumers spend (National Farmers Union: The Farmer’s Share, January 31, 2020). The wholesale prices farmers receive for their products are low, often near the cost of production. When selling to food hubs and local foods restaurants, however, farmers capture a much larger share, and farmers who sell direct to consumers through farmers markets or CSAs earn a full retail price for their food (University of Vermont Extension)
- Local foods are better for the environment. Some foods are shipped literally thousands of miles, resulting in a large, unnecessary carbon footprint that could be avoided by purchasing local and seasonal foods. According to a study done at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, the average carrot travels 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table, whereas a local carrot travels only 27 miles.
- Purchasing locally grown foods helps preserve farmland, as well as green and open spaces in your community.
- Local food preserves genetic diversity. In the modern agricultural system, plant varieties are chosen for their ability to withstand harvesting, ripen uniformly, survive packing and shipping, and maintain a long shelf life, resulting in limited genetic diversity in large-scale production. Conversely, smaller local farms often grow many different varieties of crops to provide a long harvest season, an array of colors, and a diverse palate of flavors. Livestock diversity is also higher in areas populated with many small farms rather than few large farms. (University of Vermont Extension)
- Local foods are tastier. True, it would be great to have fresh tomatoes and berries all year round, but eating seasonally means avoiding “artificial ripening” with gases or eating a bland version of a fruit or vegetable that’s been shipped thousands of miles. Eating seasonally results in the most delicious and nutrient-dense produce.
- Smaller local farms tend to grow many different varieties of crops, which promotes diversity within one’s diet.
- Local foods are fresher. Buying local produce cuts down travel time from farm to table. The longer fruit and veggies spend on a truck or in storage before being delivered to you, the greater the loss of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The moment a piece of produce is picked or cut, its enzymes begin decomposing and feeding on precious nutrients. Researchers at Montclair State University revealed that the vitamin C content of broccoli was cut in half when it was shipped from out of the country compared to when it was sourced locally. A study at Penn State University found that spinach lost 47% of its folate after 8 days.
- Local food is an investment in the future. By supporting local farmers today, you are helping to ensure there will be farms in your community tomorrow. That is critical for long term food security, especially in light of an uncertain climate and energy future.
- The emergence of demand for local food comes at a critical time for America’s rural economy. Smaller and midsize farms are under unprecedented threat: Between 1992 and 2007, the number of farms with sales of more than $10,000 per year but less than $500,000 declined by more than 150,000, or 21%. Consequently, sales of local foods—especially sales to higher-volume customers such as restaurants, retailers and food service institutions—are seen as one of the more promising avenues for the “disappearing agriculture of the middle” to maintain its economic foothold by exercising its natural competitive advantage in delivering fresh food from a trusted, known source to consumers. (2008 Agricultural Resource Management Data Survey, St. Louis Federal Reserve)
- Local foods create community. Ever find yourself spending your time at the farmers market chatting and socializing in addition to purchasing your produce? Getting to know your farmer, cheese purveyor, fishmonger, butcher, workers at your local co-op, etc., creates an important sense of community and interconnectedness.
- Local foods support your local economy. Money spent locally stays local. A 2016 study by Shermain Hardesty at the University of California, Davis found that each dollar spent at a produce farm using some direct-to-consumer marketing channels generated 44 cents more in local economic activity than purely wholesale-oriented produce farms. Furthermore, for each $1 million in revenue generated by produce farms in the study region, those farms that engaged in some form of direct marketing created nearly 32 local jobs, compared with only 10.5 local jobs among farms that exclusively used wholesale channels.
- Local foods promote accountability. When food is raised and grown locally, the consumer better understands how and where their food is being produced. This awareness encourages local farmers to use sustainable agriculture practices and be more accountable to safe ecological practices, which may include not using pesticides or implementing systems that are less resource intensive than commercial agriculture.